Winter Nights

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For the Al Di Meola album, see Winter Nights (album).

Winter Nights or Old Norse vetrnætr was a specific time of year in medieval Scandinavia. According to Zoega's Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic, vetr-nætr referred to "the three days which begin the winter season". The term is attested in the narrative of some of the Fornaldarsögur, mostly to express passage of time ("as autumn turned into winter").


The term is not mentioned in the Ynglinga saga by Snorri Sturluson where (in chapter 8) the three great sacrifices of the year are proscribed:

Þá skyldi blóta í móti vetri til árs, en at miðjum vetri blóta til gróðrar, hit þriðja at sumri, þat var sigrblót.
There should be a sacrifice at the beginning of winter for a good year, and at in the middle of winter for a good crop, the third in summer day, that was the sacrifice for victory.

It can be argued[by whom?] that í móti vetri "at the onset of winter" marking the autumn sacrifice in the Ynglinga saga is corresponds to what came to be called vetrnætr "winter nights" at a somewhat later stage of the Old Norse period.

Specific sacrifices held at the beginning of winter during the Old Norse period were álfablót and dísablót. Of these, dísablót came to be a public sacrifice, according to the Ynglinga saga performed by the king of Sweden; it may, however, at an earlier time have been a sacrifice reserved for women and performed by priestesses (c.f. mōdraniht). By contrast, álfablót was a sacrifice held at each homestead separately for the local spirits, under the explicit exclusion of any strangers.


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