Today is the first day of summer, according to the old Icelandic calendar.
As a Viking age enthusiast with likeminded friends, I will occasionally post photos of our celebrations marking the various seasons. Some of you have written to ask me about them (and that sounds like a blog post to me). ^^ Let me tell you what I know about the four main feasts that were celebrated by our forefathers!
The Norse calendar divided the year into two halves, the summer and the winter season, each holding six of the old months. Meanwhile, each of the four quarters of the year were times of celebration and sacrificial feasts (or in Old Norse, blóts).
The months of the Viking Age are believed to have been lunar months, meaning that dates would not be exact, but vary somewhat from year to year. According to the interpretations of Nordberg (2006), this would translate to the dates seen below in the Julian and Gregorian (current) calendar. Each of the quarters occur about one moon phase after the astronomical equinoxes and solstices, which is believed to be due to the climatic circumstances in the Nordic countries.
Sumarmál (coming of summer)
Sumarmál marks the last days of the winter half-year, or in the days around the first day of the summer month "Harpa", which we would be entering this week. Oh joy, the winter has passed, and easier times are ahead! The hens are laying eggs once again, and the ewes are giving birth to their lambs. Daylight and warmth has moved everyday life outside the house, and calls for changes in work and chores to be done around the farm. The summer was also the time for travel, trading and raids, and as stated in Ynglingasaga, it was held toward summer, for victory ("sigr").
Focusing on victory in battle, some hold the sumarmál celebration to have been held in honor of Óðinn. Others, like the Ásatru community in Iceland, point to the wider meaning of the old Norse word and celebrate victory in another sense, honoring Freyja and Frey, for the defeat of winter, for life, fertility and growth.
The Midsummer celebration is poorly documented in historical sources, and some leave it out when counting the main blóts of the year. There is however reason to believe that a celebration took place at this time. Snorri Sturlusson mentions a midsummer blót in the Saga of Óláfr Tryggvason, and the manuscript Ágrip from approx. 1150, further mentions the midsummer celebration was replaced with Saint John's Eve during the Christianization. Midsummer was also the time of several big happenings such as the Þing (parliamentary assembly) in the Scandinavian countries, which may have coincided with religious feasts.
Vetrarnætur (winter nights)
Come fall and the end of the summer half-year, the old calendar enters winter nights which mark the start of the winter season. The winter nights is the most thoroughly documented celebration in the literature. As described in a previous blogpost about the first winter month Gormánuðr, this was the time for slaughtering, salting, smoking and otherwise preparing foods for the winter, and Ynglingasaga states that this was a celebration for a good harvest. Several sources, including Víga-Glúms saga and Egils saga discuss the Dísablót (blót for the "Dísir", female deities), which found place at the same time, and may have been a similar and coinciding celebration, or simply be a different term for the same blót. The sources describe the celebration as a grand feast and gathering of friends. Although sources differ on when the new year commenced during the Viking Age, many have claimed that the winter nights were the entry to the new year, and it is also believed to have been a popular time for weddings.
Midwinter was the time for the Old Norse Yule celebration. In the Saga Hákonar góða, Snorri Sturluson describes how the celebration would start with hökunótt (midwinter night) around mid-January, and was held for three nights. Being halfway between the first day of winter and the first day of summer, Yule was a celebration of the passing of winter and a blót for growth and a good and bounteous year. There were firmly established traditions regarding the brewing and consumption of Yule ale, and toasts were made in honor of the deities as well as for friends and family that had passed away. The celebration was later moved to conform to Christianity, which would override many of the heathen practices and blóts discussed above. Nevertheless, some things have remained, such as the fact that Scandinavians still refer to midtwinter as Jól/Yule (rather than Kristmesse/Christmas), along with the consumption of Yule-ale and traditional foods.
Do you celebrate the seasons and the turning of the wheel of the year?
Haven't had the chance to blog in way too long! This afternoon, however, I took the time to cook properly and decided it had to be shared here. :-)
I call the Samdal stew, because the recipe is from my friends who live there (and who feed me with all kinds of delicious gastronomy during my visits). I love rustic foods like this, simple organic ingredients put together to create a natural and hearty meal!
- about 500 g of diced moose/deer meat
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 3 bay leaves
- 15 juniper berries, crushed
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 4 carrots, chopped
- 4 parsnips, chopped
- 2 dl water
- 2 dl sour cream / cream (or use both like I did)
Cook the meat gently in butter and then put all the ingredients in a casserole. Bring it to a boil and then let it all simmer for as long as necessary for the meat to be cooked through and the vegetables soft. Serve with brussels sprouts and lingon berry.
Oh, and I added some diced bacon and mushrooms to the recipe (because well, bacon and mushroom are two of my favourite things). ^^
Music: Cecair - Atiny Naya
My green wooolen hood is based on an archeologic find in a bog near Skjoldehamn in Northern Norway, dated to approx. year 1050-1090. Designed by Klesarven. (Ps: the color appears darker in my photos, it is more of a pear green in reality)
Text: Excerpts from Rígsþula
Photography and editing: Valkyrja.com
Music: Wardruna - IngwaR
Last weekend was truly wonderful. We went back to the lovely dale of our friends Silje and LC, and curled up for a Lord of the Rings-marathon, with lovely meals and snacks (including shepherd's pie, and lembas-bread baked by Silje), mead and ale, and with a nice fire going beside us throughout the night. Though the snow had gone, the weather was clear and cold outside, and Sunday morning we went out on the lake for ice skating. I used to skate a lot as a child, but it has been many years since I last wore skates, and I was rather wobbly out there, though I got the hang of it after a while. Christian was however fearless (shameless), skating around me in circles, though this was only his second time on the ice. ^^
I dressed up in my new bright blue Viking dress from Klesarven ("Viking Heritage"). I recently started a collaboration with Lene Lorentzen, Norwegian fashion designer and history enthusiast, who makes timeless and environment friendly clothing inspired by the Viking Age. Although I have sown the most of my Viking clothes myself, this suits me perfectly as I do not always have the time available to produce new pieces for the season, and 2017 is a busy year for me workwise. I also know that a lot of you have been looking and asking about where you can find quality historical gear, so there you go! This dress is 100 % linen, with underarm gussets and gores on the sides, designed based on fragments found in Birka, Sweden.
Music: Helene Bøkslie - Ylva
We are now in the month of Þorri, the fourth of the old winter months. I am beginning to long for spring, for thawing ice and lighter clothes, for sitting by the bay listening to rippling waves, for the Viking markets to start, the birds coming back, and for the thimbleweed to grow.
Meanwhile, I am thankful for blankets, candles, music and tea (and for my macbook, allowing me to spend late nights looking through old photography and putting together collages)... ^^
Music is by friend and artist Kai Uwe Faust, from the amazing project Heilung.
During the Viking Age, people celebrated four main sacrificial feasts or blóts of the year. The large Midwinter or Yule celebration, the Miðsvetrarblót, is believed to have been held in what is now mid-late January, marking one of the quarters in the Old Norse calendar, mid the first day of winter and the first day of summer.
The feast was held for the passing of winter and for a good and bountiful year, and ceremonial toasts were made in honor of the Æsir and for friends and kin that had passed away.
Haakon the Good later moved the heathen celebration to December 25th in order for it to coincide with the Christian celebration elsewhere in Europe, which would override the heathen practices. Some of us who are particularly fond of the old ways and our cultural history do however still meet up to celebrate the old Midwinter, in our case in the forests of Western-Norway, where we light a fire, feast and drink together with the best of friends!
Mead with ginger and raspberry, brewed by my friend Bjørn.
The forest is pitch black at this time of year, although there was almost a full moon and the stars shone bright far up above the treetops. The temperatures were well below zero in the forest, and as usual we stayed until we had burnt up all our firewood and walked back to civilization to enjoy a warm midnight meal inside.
Behold—Silje and LC's delicious organic moose stew, with lots of yummy vegetables, sour cream, lingonberry and bay laurel leaves. Perfect for thawing frozen Vikings, and filling up hungry bellies!
Music: Gjallarhorn - O-Vals
A new year is here, and for us history enthusiasts and reenactors that means a new season of adventures will soon be upon us! Friends from all over the world will meet again under summer skies and gather around campfires to talk about the year that has passed, as well as those that passed long ago, in the culture and history we love so much.
That also means that it's time for my annual overview of Viking and Medieval events in Scandinavia! Each event is provided with a link for more information. Many dates have not been set yet (TBA), so this list will be updated continuously. Some markets are biennial and will not be arranged this year (N/A).
If your market or event is not listed here, please let me know and it will be added. ^^
I hope to meet many of you this summer!
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*Copying source code and claiming credit yourself is however not nice. *cough*
Music: Songleikr - Mann og mening