Heathen holidays

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In the modern Pagan new religious movement of Heathenry, various publications identify a number of holidays, to some extent based on medieval references to sacrifices observed in historical Norse paganism or reconstructions of an early Germanic calendar, but frequently also inspired by the "Wheel of the Year" popular in Wicca, and sometimes also based on ad hoc innovation, e.g. the various "Days of Remembrance" introduced by The Troth.

As a minimal consensus, the three great seasonal blots mentioned in Ynglingasaga are recognized by practically all adherents. These are: Winter Nights (in October, in some Icelandic sagas identified with Dísablót), Midwinter (some time in December or January, often identified with Yule) and Sigrblot (some time in summer). Beyond this, the modern Icelandic festival of Þorrablót is sometimes considered a "pagan holiday".

Suggestions for rituals suited for these various holidays were published by Edred Thorsson, A Book of Troth (1989) and by Kveldulf Gundarsson, Teutonic Religion (1993). James Chisholm (1989) published a suggestion for Ostara.[1] Chisholm argued for the reconstruction of the "sacred dramas" which he saw reflected in some Eddaic poems, although shorn of their sexual content by the Christian redactors. The revived neopagan ritual was again to be modified to suit "contemporary American sensibilities".[2]

Asatru Free Assembly[edit]

The seminal organization of American Heathenry was Asatru Free Assembly, founded in 1974 by Stephen McNallen. The first attempt to provide a "Germanic" version of the Wiccan Wheel of the Year was made by McNallen in desktop-published documents between 1975-1976.

Date Wiccan sabbath Asatru equivalent (McNallen)
21 December
(winter solstice)
Yule Yule
2 February Imbolc Charming of the Plow
21 / 25 March
(vernal equinox / Ostara)
Ostara Summer Finding
1 May
(May Day)
Beltane May Day
21 June
(summer solstice)
Midsummer Midsummer
1 August
Lugnasad Freyfaxi
21 / 29 Sept
(autumnal equinox / St. Michael's)
Mabon Winter Finding
31 October
(All Souls' Day)
Samhain Winter Nights

The name "Yule" coincides with the Wiccan Wheel as the name has been taken by Wicca from the Germanic tradition in the first place. McNallen's "Summer Finding" later came to be popularly called Ostara both in Wicca and in Asatru. For the remaining items (other than "Midsummer"), McNallen sought to replace the Gaelic name used by Wiccans with a Germanic-inspired alternative.


Puryear (2006) constructs an "eight-spoked Yule, also called achtwung", also paralleling the eight holidays in the Wheel of the Year in Wicca, but with slight differences to McNallen's 1970s version: Disting, Ostara, Beltaine, Midsummer, Hleifblot, Haustblot, Vetrablot, Yule.[3] Of these eight names, Ostara, Beltaine, Midsummer and Yule coincide with the Wiccan "Wheel". The remaining four, Disting, Hleifblot, Haustblot and Vetrablot, correspond to Wiccan Imbolc, Lughnasadh, Mabon and Samhain, respectively.

Puryear (p. 186) mentions "Charming of the Plow" it as an "alternate name" for Disting, which he in turn identifies with the "midwinter sacrifice".

The Troth[edit]

The handbook Our Troth in its second edition, published by The Troth in 2006,[4] likewise lists eight festivals: Yule, Þorrablót, Idis-Þing, Ostara (Sigrblót), Waluburg's Night, Midsummer, Loaf-Fest (Freyfaxi) and Winter-Nights (Alf-Blessing, Idis-Blessing, Frey-Blessing). These eight festivals are not, however, evenly distributed throughout the year as the Wiccan "Wheel of the Year". The handbook takes as its starting-point the statement in the Heimskringla on the three major holidays, Winter Nights, Yule, and Sigrblót (identified with Ostara), set in October, December and April, respectively. Midsummer is added as a fourth festival in the absence of Eddaic evidence because its popularity in modern Scandinavian folklore. The remaining four holidays are listed as the "lesser blessings". In addition, Our Troth cites a number of "Days of Remembrance" dedicated to various Eddaic heroes introduced by modern Ásatrú in the United States.

date holiday significance
late December (winter solstice) Yule (Midwinter) one of the "three greatest blessings of the year" mentioned in the Ynglinga saga
late January / early February Þorrablót one of the "lesser blessings"; mentioned in Hversu Noregr byggðist, in modern Icelandic folklore associated with Thor
late February / early March Disting one of the "lesser blessings"; the Heimskringla mentions this as a Swedish tradition originally lasting for a week during the month of Góa, but later moved to Candlemas and reduced to three days' duration.
9 February Remembrance for Eyvindr kinnrifi one of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance", dedicated to a martyr of the Christianization of Scandinavia
14 February Feast of Váli The US Valentine's Day celebrated as an Ásatrú-specific "Day of Remembrance"; by folk etymological connection of Váli with Saint Valentine
28 March Ragnar Lodbrok's Day one of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance"
9 April Remembrance for Haakon Sigurdsson one of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance"
April Ostara (Sigrblót) Sigrblót is one of the "three greatest blessings of the year" mentioned in the Ynglinga saga, celebrated "for victory". Ostara in Wiccan tradition is set at vernal equinox; the historical Sigrblót marks the beginning of summer and the campaign season. The historical lunar month of Eostre may coincide with the Paschal Full Moon.
9 May Remembrance for Guðröðr of Guðbrandsdál one of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance", dedicated to a martyr of the Christianization of Scandinavia
late May Einherjar Day the US Memorial Day celebrated as an Ásatrú "Day of Remembrance"
9 June Remembrance for Sigurd one of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance"
late June (summer solstice) Midsummer included as part of Scandinavian folklore
9 July Remembrance for Unnr the Deep-Minded one of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance"
1 August Lammas (Freyfaxi) one of the "lesser blessings"; The name Lammas or "Loaf-fest" refers to an Anglo-Saxon festival of the wheat harvest; the name Freyfaxi refers to a tradition of horse sacrifice to Freyr.
9 August Remembrance for Radbod, King of the Frisians one of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance"
9 September Remembrance for Herman the Cheruscan one of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance"
mid October Remembrance for Leif Ericson and his sister The US Columbus Day celebrated as an Ásatrú "Day of Remembrance"
mid October Winter Nights (Vetrnætr) one of the "three greatest blessings of the year" mentioned in the Ynglinga saga. The historical festival marked the beginning of winter, and involved sacrifices to the elves and the dísir. In Neopaganism also observed as a Festival of the Dead and as such associated with Wiccan Samhain on 31 October.[5]
28 October Remembrance for Erik the Red one of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance"
9 November Remembrance for Sigrid the Haughty one of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance"
late November Wayland the Smith's Day The US Thanksgiving celebrated as an Ásatrú "Day of Remembrance"
9 December Remembrance for Egill Skallagrímsson one of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ James Chisholm, "The Rites of Ostara: Possibilities for Today", Idunna 1, no. 4 (February 1989), 7-10.
  2. ^ Jeffrey Kaplan, Radical religion in America: millenarian movements from the far right to the children of Noah, Syracuse University Press, 1997, ISBN 978-0-8156-0396-2, p. 76.
  3. ^ Mark Puryear, The Nature of Asatru: An Overview of the Ideals and Philosophy of the Indigenous Religion of Northern Europe, iUniverse, 2006, p. 214.
  4. ^ BookSurge, ISBN 978-1-4196-3598-4.
  5. ^ Graham Harvey, Listening people, speaking earth: contemporary paganism, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 1997, ISBN 978-1-85065-272-4, p. 58.