Updated: Sep 29, 2020
As many of you know, my biggest complaint with modern "neo-paganism" is that it spreads mis-information on the historical holy days of the Scandinavian People, and it does not have a history of doing research to learn what the historical pre-Christian religion actually was, not just in terms of holidays, but also ritual in general. This year, historical pre-christain Winter Nights is at Sundown on October 31, 2020. (Please do not get excited, this is because October 31, 2020 is a full moon, the full moon of Haustmanuthr, or Harvest Moon on the historical prechristian Heathen Scandinaivian calendar. This has nothing to do with Halloween, which is always dated 10/31, due to its modern solar understanding. Most years, Halloween is not on a full moon, which is once every 29.5 days. Interestingly enough though, the historical Celtic holiday that was the inspiration for modern Halloween, was also on a full moon, and was not at a fixed solar date. Modern neo-paganism paths struggle accross the board with historical accuracy. This problem is not confined to Asatru. Please also note, that modern neo-paganism ignores the moon almost completely, as the "8-pronged Wheel of the Year," popularized by Wicca, is a 100% solar calendar. Historical Heathens, or Arch Heathens, also paid attention to the moon and other celestial bodies, contrary to the overwhelming popular modern opinion.)
In this article, I will discuss the historical pre-Christian Norse Winter Nights (in the Sagas under four names: Vetrnætr, Veturnóttum, Haustblot, and Disablot.) I will also discuss the Anglish "Winterfylleth" and the Old Saxon Uuintarfulmano (Winter Full Moon), as these occur at the same time as Norse Winter Nights. The dating of Norse (and Germanic Heathen) holidays was on the full moons, NOT on the equinoxes or solstices. The same is true for the Anglish and Saxon uuihdage (holidays). Bede stated clearly in 725 AD in his work De Temporum Ratione ch 15: "The moon by which they (Anglish Heathens) 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." Andreas Nordberg is the world's foremost scholar on the Norse Holy Days. His LEGENDARY work: Jul, disting och förkyrklig tideräkning is a must read for all Norse Heathens attempting to accurately date Norse Holidays. You can find his work for free (PDF) in the link below. Please note, only the introduction and summary are in English, the rest is in Swedish. You can put the Swedish text into Google Translate if you can't read Swedish. Dr. Andreas Nordberg (University of Stockholm, but teaches at Uppsala), states in his book: "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." Dr. Nordberg's work is based on the Sagas, which teach this understanding of Yule (which most people in Asatru do not read the Sagas), as well as the archaeological finds, the Runic Calendar Staffs and other Calendar Rods. Please note, we have several other historical mentions of Yule outside of the Sagas, that also state Yule was in January.
Please note, if you want further research on the dating of Winter Nights, Old Saxon Winter Full Moon, and Anglish Winterfylleth, please see my blog on accurate dating of historical holidays, as now I will move to discussing Norse Winter Nights:
NORSE WINTER NIGHTS: In Norse Heathenry, there were five holidays: 1. Winter Nights 2. Yule 3. Disting 4. Sigurblot 5. Alfablot (Sweden only). SWEDEN: The Swedes had three major holidays that were publicly held at Uppsala, while the Swedish Poem Austrfararvisur states clearly Alfablot was a family only ritual done in the homestead, in which non-family members were excluded. 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, a Victory-blot.” --- Those of Swedish heritage would celebrate Winter Nights (the start of winter) as a blot for a good year. Please note, a "blot for a good year" implies that Winter Nights was also the Swedish New Year.
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." It appears in Iceland that a disablot accompanied Winter Nights.
NORWAY (Norse): Ynglinga Saga 8 (Sweden) makes clear there were three major blots held at Uppsala, including Winter Nights. However, Norwegian Winter Nights is done at the homestead, not at Swedish Uppsala. Please note that the word "veturnóttum" was used in Norway, per Gísla saga Súrssonar (Saga of Gisla the Outlaw). Please see the second saga quote below, showing that Haustblot is another name for Winter Nights.
Gisla saga Surssonar chapter 6, last sentence, and beginning of chapter 7: "And now the summer slips away, and the first winter night was nigh at hand. Gisli made a sumble, and bade his friends to it he wished to have a gathering, and so to welcome both the winter and his friends; but he had left off all heathen blots since he had been in Viborg with Sigrhadd. He bade to the feast both the Thorkels and his cousins, the sons of Bjartmar. So that the day that the guests were looked for Gisli made ready his house." --- I love this passage, as it shows that family and close friends were invited to the holy day blot and sumble. Therefore, this shows that historical Heathenry did not have "heathen churches" called "kindreds." Please see my blog on that subject. Also, the word "kin" means "family" in Germanic languages. Nonetheless, back to our subject, the Norse (Norwegians) welcomed winter with blot and sumble.
Gisla saga Surssonar chapter 9: "Thorgrim meant to have a Haustblot on Winter Nights, 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" 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." In the past, I thought that Haustblot was its own homestead blot apart from Winter Nights. However, this passage makes clear that Haustblot was going on at Winter Nights, and since most of the time, mid to late October was when winter started, it makes sense that a portion of the harvest was shared with the Gods and Ancestors, as the food that was grown all summer long would be shared with the Gods/Ancestors/Wights on the first day of winter.
All Germanic Heathens: Please note: According to the Norse Heathen Calendar, recorded by the Iceland Althing circa 930 AD, the Scandinavians had two seasons: Summer and Winter. According to the Anglish Calendar as well, recorded by Bede in 725 AD, these Germanic Peoples also had just two seasons, Summer and Winter. Summer and Winter Started on Full Moons. There were four "greater" full moons a year, each quarter of the year was three full moons apart. Therefore, Yule, or Mid-winter, was three full moons after Winter Nights, which was Three Full Moons before Sigurblot (Norse) or Eostre (Anglish/Saxon.) Please also note, as Yule is on the Full Moon of Jolmanuthr (Yule Moon), Winter Nights or Haustblot was on the full moon of Haustmanuathr, exactly three full moons before Yule. The start of Summer would be three full moons after Yule Full Moon. The start of Summer is called "Sigrblot" in the sagas. On a completely different note, I found that a wedding took place on Winter Nights. See Lexdaela Saga chapter 42. It is "interesting" to me that Norse Heathens did a wedding on a historical high holy day. CONCLUSION: On the Full Moon of Haustmanuthr (Norse), or the Full Moon of "WInterfylleth" (Anglish), is a blot and sumble night. For the Swedes, this was public at Uppsala. We have no evidence to prove that for the Saxons in Saxony, Winter Full Moon was done at the Irminsul vs. at home. My guess (emphasis on guess) is that those in southern Westphalia and Angria probably presented offerings at the Irminsul and then did blot and sumble at the homestead and in their Sacred Groves. In Norway and Iceland, Winter Nights was done at the homestead with family and close friends (close friends who for some reason, were not celebrating with their family). Solitary, family Heathens (I have a Heathen wife, and we have four children), and community Heathens should celebrate Winter Nights/Winterfylleth. (Please, do not skip home ritual with your family though, replacing it with community ritual. Community ritual doesn't replace home and family ritual, which is far more important historically when there is no Uppsala and Irminsul.) Nonetheless, I hope those of you who are bringing back the Old Ways, have a great Winter Nights, Winter Full Moon, or Winterfylleth. PS- I see many people on Facebook claiming that they are bringing back the "Old Ways." This implies they are bringing back the Old Ways of their Germanic Heathen Ancestors. This is becoming too "cliche" with so many people claiming they are bringing back the Old Ways, who have not read the historical sources first, to even know what the Old Ways are. The Old Ways, does require homework, and patience. But remember, we as Heathens need to be WORTHY of the Gods we venerate, and therefore, we should approach our Gods the way THEY want to be approached. Our Ancestors had centuries of experience in veneration of our Ancestral Gods. To ignore the wisdom left behind in the Sagas and historical sources, is ignoring our Ancestors' experience. Sure, at times, we must sift out Christian bias from these sources. But it is the job of all of us, who truly want the Old Ways, to be worthy of our great Heathen Ancestors. We are our deeds, and sometimes, good deeds start with some research. Happy Winter (on October 31st) everyone!
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