Holidays at the Hof
Monthly Events & What to Know
Þorrablót is an Icelandic midwinter festival dedicated to, as the name describes, Þor, or Thor. Þorrablót is named after the Icelandic month of Þorri from the historic-calendar and ran from mid-January to mid-February. Though Þorrablót is a relatively modern social celebration in Iceland, there is a reference in the Flateyjarbók that states that the Kvens offered a yearly sacrifice to Þorri at mid-winter. Typically, Þorrablót is celebrated by gathering together and eating many of Iceland’s traditional foods and by singing, reciting poems, and telling stories.
Ostara is the celebration marking the beginning of Spring. The cold, dreary days of winter are finally coming to an end. The sun is warming the frozen soil. Life is once stirring from the depths. Our ancestors celebrated life and the survival of another long winter. They celebrated the birth of lambs, calves, and horses. They celebrated the blossoming fertility of the world around them.
Halfway between the spring and summer solstice, May Day is often considered to be the first day of summer. Warmer days are becoming normal. The spring rains that helped to nourish the wakening fields have begun to taper off. The world around us is verdant again. On May Day, sometimes called Sumermál, big celebrations were held both to celebrate the end of the harder days of winter and to bless themselves and their crops for a fertile and productive year. Men and women leapt over fires together or alone, wishing for fertility in the coming year. Catte were blessed in the smoke of the fire before sending them to their summer fields. The maypole was raised and around it, people danced and wove their ribbons. Women decorated their windows and doors with flowers and wove them into their hair.
Sigurblót literally means ‘Victory Blot’ and was celebrated by our ancestors in the early summer months. On the one hand, our ancestors were celebrating their victory over the harsh winter. Life had won. On the other hand, our ancestors performed blot to ask for victory. With the warm weather and the completion of the planting time the men often turned their minds to the duty of man. War. Practically speaking, summer was the better time to organize new campaigns and to set sail. In our modern times, the vast majority of us are not familiar with war in a personal way. We do, however, all have our struggles. Sigurblót is a time to refocus. It is the time we can use to reorganize our priorities, to figure out the steps we need to take in order to reach our ultimate goals, and to break free from those that we struggle with.
The ancient calendar only recognized two seasons. There was summer, and there was winter. Just as May Day was their first day of Summer, Winter Finding was their first day of winter. The temperature slowly begins to fall, the days get shorter. Those who grow their food begin preparations for the final harvests. The larders are growing full with the fruit of earlier efforts. Now it’s time to begin the hunt, to kill enough game to finish winter’s preparations.
Feast of the Einherjar
One of the most recognizable motifs in Asatru is that of the Viking warrior. Helm, sword, beard, and blood: boys and girls have long been mesmerized by the stories of Valkyries and the eternal feasting and fighting of the Einherjar in Odin’s hall, Valhalla. Pop culture has taken the Berserker and the Valkyrie and remade them hundreds of times. Our ancestors lived in a different time, when fighting wars and general “viking” was necessary for survival. For a warrior, to die in battle was the greatest honor. Today, war is not necessary in the same way. Most people scoff at war, urge their children to “do better” or “be better”. For those of us who practice Asatru, however, we recognize the importance and the value of the warrior. More important still, is the importance and the value of those who have fallen, the Einherjar. Once a year we set aside a day specifically to honor the Einherjar. We raise a horn to the fallen warriors to thank them for fighting for our people and our freedom.
Charming of the Plow
Charming of the Plow is a ritual that takes place at the early beginning of the planting season. As the name implies the plow, or other tools used, are blessed and offerings are made to the Gods for a productive growing season. Traditionally, after blessing the plow, a ceremonial furrow was dug and then filled with cakes and other offerings. For our ancestors, this was a crucial time of year. Poor preparation often led to a poor harvest and a poor harvest led to starvation. Asatru is the modern celebration of our ancestral heritage. Charming of the Plow symbolizes our willful penetration of the unyielding soil. It is with our own industriousness, our own will, that we create, that we change, that we provide.
When the ground was thawed, and the colder weather was beginning to give way to it became necessary to move the cattle from the winter fields to the summer ones. Hexennacht, traditionally, was a festival celebrating this very thing. The main focus of the holiday was the bonfire. The men would all gather and build the large need-fire. They would then walk the cattle through the smoke to bless them before rehoming them for the warm months. Often the men would call on Freyr during Hexennacht, asking for fertility and abundance. While the men were off blessing the cattle the women gathered together for their own festivities. They had their own bonfires and it was during this time that the women often burned herbs and practiced their local magic or seidthr. As the men called on Freyr, the woman would often call on Freyja. After the separate celebrations, men and women would come together and continue the festivities.
For us, Midsummer is considered the official beginning of summer, but for our ancestors, who only recognized two seasons (winter and summer), Midsummer was the middle of the season. The common factor between our ancestor’s celebration and ours is the Summer Solstice. On Midsummer, we celebrate the longest day of the year and the shortest night. The dark and cold of winter is firmly past and the days are full of vitality and life.
Though Freyfaxi is, in name, a modern holiday the celebration around which it is centered is much older. Dedicated to Freyr, our ancestors celebrated the first harvest of the season. The most common offerings during freyfaxi included the sheaves of wheat, or other grains, and freshly baked loaves of bread. Less common was the sacrifice of a horse in honor of Freyr. The beginning of the harvest season marked the beginning of hard work and dedication. Every harvest of the season was necessary to the survival of each family, of the community. This hard work ensured that there would be food to see them through the long winter months.
Autumn has officially started. The days are noticeably shorter. The nights are noticeably cooler. The trees are ablaze with the colors of Fall and the crunching of the fallen leaves underfoot has begun. All around us the world is dying. This was a time of drawing in close, of hearth and home and family. For our ancestors, this was not an Autumn festival, but a quiet Winter rite in which the female spirits were honored in a rite called Disirblót.
Yuletide is the 12-day period in December in which we hold our biggest celebrations. During the Yuletide, we celebrate our families and our tribes and the bonds that hold us strong. We celebrate our Ancestors. We celebrate our Gods and the Wild Hunt. We celebrate the bright fires of the hearth that keeps us warm, and the we celebrate the rebirth of the sun. We have made it halfway through the harshest time of the year. The sun begins to stay in the sky a little longer each day, moving us closer and closer to the fruitful and warm summer.