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  • Jennifer Hartman

Álfblót - A Hallowed Heathen Night

What is Alfblot?

Álfblót is a historic Heathen night that falls either on October 28, 2023 or November 27, 2023, during the full moon. It's part of a series of pre-Christian festivities that includes Vetrnætr, Jól, Sígrblót and Disting.


The November timing of Álfblót is based on historical attestation from the scholar Béde. In his De Temporum Ratione, chapter 15, he mentions a blót during the Blotmonath (Old English for Blood Moon) where animals would be sacrificed for the gods. Blodmanoth (Saxon for Blood Moon) is also mentioned as a time in November in the Essen Necrology.


Corresponding to that, scholars Steinsland & Sorensen mention Álfblót was during the Swedish Moon "GorManuthr" (meaning blood moon), which happens after the full moon of Vetrnætr.


The Contradiction to the Dating of Álfblót

Although Álfblót may be observed on full moon of November, there has been a contradiction published by Dr. Andreas Zautner in 2021 that Álfblót takes place during Vetrnætr (last October's full moon).


Previously, scholars assumed the lunisolar months were based on 'either the full or new moon', with Dr. Andreas Norberg leaning toward the full moon schedule. However, Dr. Andreas Zautner believes they started on the new moon, which aligns with the belief of many other ancient civilizations. If the months begin on the new moon, all other blóts keep to their dating by full moon, but Álfblót would be moved to Vetrnætr in October.


Dates aside, let's move onto historical attestation on how Álfblót was celebrated.


Historical Depiction of Álfblót

The Austrfararvísur (verses 1-6) hints that this celebration may have involved a celebration for the ancestors. It states travelers seeking shelter from a very hospitable town were turned away during a hearth-only celebration. At this time, no one from outside the family is welcome to participate in a private practice.


Another mention comes from the Kormáks Saga. It tells us that a celebration around this time of year is a hallowed night intended to be a sacrifice to elves who have a connection to their ancestors.

I have been waiting for a good time to introduce this: The Swedes are believers in fairies, elves and trolls. It may sound crazy to the western world, but it is a cultural norm in many northern European countries.


Historically not much is said about Álfblót except what's included in the sources above. Although I won't be inviting anyone into our home for this, I will share information on how we will be practicing.


To start my UPG practice: My mother (son's Mormor) would say it is the time of year the veil between us and the afterlife is thinnest, and it is a time of year you can talk to your dead ancestors. She also mentioned, "During the full moon of October, elves dance over mounds with the dead under the moon's full light." How magical! The Kormáks Saga also mentions a mound. Although this tale has been passed down through my family, I wonder if they were unaware of the original source.

 

So what is the Hartman home doing for Álfblót?


We will be honouring loved ones who have passed on. This includes my husband's Opa (grandfather) and our grandmothers (my Mormor and my husband's Nanny).


We will start our afternoon with a ham (traditionally boar) and harvest dinner. An extra plate will be set out for the ancestors we are honouring. We will welcome them to the table, toast them by pouring some of our drinks into their cups, serve the food to everyone, and begin drinking and feasting. A candle will be lit on each of their plates to symbolize the light of their lives.


Once dusk falls and our little Heathens are asleep, we light a fire and toast our ancestors; We will talk all night about the memories we have with them and what we loved most.


During the fire, we place the offerings by our backyard tree and leave it for the spirits or animals who want to enjoy the sustenance.


As our kids get older and joins us, we will include them in the fire celebration while we talk about our ancestors, from the ones we remember to the ones who left a mark. We will explore our genealogy charts and stories with them, and give him a sense of connection with their lineage. For us, the smaller and more intimate events are the ones that hold the most meaning. Still, for many members of the Heathen community, this is a significant celebration that requires sacrifice.

 

Did you know over 28 hours went into researching, updating and fact-checking this article?


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