Updated: Jan 29
As many of you know, my biggest complaint with modern Asatru is that it doesn't know the historical holy days of the Norse Peoples. Since the founding of Asatru in the USA in 1974, the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, based on the Solar Calendar of Celtic/Gaelic Paganism has reigned supreme in Asatru, despite the fact it is not Germanic, and that Norse Peoples did not keep those holy days. Germanic Peoples kept a calendar that was lunar based. This year, Norse Winter Nights is at Sundown on October 13, 2019. In this blog, I will discuss 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.
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: 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). 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 the first night of winter, 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 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.) 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. Angles and Winterfylleth: Bede, De Temporum Ratione, chapter 15, 725 AD: "The division of the year though was into two seasons: Winter and Summer. Summer comprising six (or seven) moons when the days were longer than the nights, and winters six moons when the nights were longer than the days. 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 month winter was thought to begin. It would not be strange to our endeavor if I propose to interpret the names of their other moons. The months called “Giuli” (Yule) receive their name from the sun’s change to a longer day, since the first precedes, and the second follows. Solmonath may be rendered “month of cakes”. Cakes being offered in this month to their Gods. Hredmonath was named from their goddess Hreða, to whom they sacrificed in this moon. Eosturmonath, which is now interpreted as “Paschal Month” had its name from their Goddess Easter (Eostre), to whom they held festivals in this moon, thus in naming the Paschal season after her, they designate the joys of a new celebration by the customary term applied to an ancient rite. Thrmilki was so called because in that moon milking was performed three times in one day, such being then the richness of Britain, or instead Germany, from which the Angle (English) people entered Britain. Litha means “delightful”, and at this time, the seas are navigated. Weodmonath is the month of weeds, since then the weeds are plentiful. Halegmonath is the moon of sacred rites. Winterfylleth is to say “winter full moon.” Blotmonath is the moon of sacrifices, because in that moon they consecrated to their gods the animals that they were about to kill." Please note, above I shared evidence that Winter Nights was the Swedish New Year. The English (not necessarily Saxon) New Year was "Mothers' Night" and not "Winterfylleth." Bede states clearly in De Temporum Ratione 15, that the Aglish (Old English) "Began the year... with the Mothers' Night, a name named, I suspect, because of the ceremonies which they performed while seeing this night through." Unfortunately, we do not know much about what was done on Winterfylleth. What we do know, is that since the Norse did blots and Sumble on the three public blots of Winter Nights, Yule, and Sigurblot; the Saxons and Anglish most likely did blot and sumble to celebrate Winter Full Moon (Winterfylleth.) (See for example, Hakon the Good chapters 15-16, specifically chapter 16 where a Yule blot and Yule Sumble are recorded in detail)
CONCLUSION: On the Full Moon of Haustmanuthr (Norse), or the Full Moon of "WInterfylleth" (Saxon and 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, Winterfylleth was done at the Irminsul vs. at home. My guess (emphasis on guess) is that those in Westphalia 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). I think friends homestead gatherings in Heathen times was rare, as family came first. 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 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 13th) everyone!
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