Yule Sacrifice

You though the December holidays were over, but the end of the Norse holiday season is January 12th. That day is Jólablót , or Yule Sacrifice.

The period between the Winter Solstice and Jólablót is referred to as Yule or Jól which is a festive three weeks that partially began as a way to pass the nights during the darkest and probably rather boring part of the year. One of the games was a “bones” (dice) and some people (my family included) follow that tradition in a way by playing board and card games and doing jigsaw puzzles.

Go back to late October and early November and we find an early holiday in this series – the Norse Sacrifice to the Elves. Those elves sound rather Christmassy in our modern secular way but it is actually a personal holiday when people honor their dead ancestors. Álfablót is a pagan Scandinavian sacrifice to the elves. As with many other cultural harvest events, this occurs when the crops had been harvested and the animals were fattened.

These are not Santa’s workshop characters. These elves have magical powers and supernatural beauty. Think more of the ones in the Lord of the Rings books and movies, as Tolkien was certainly influenced by Norse legends. Elves are generally not much interested in regular people and can help or hinder human efforts.

The Wild Hunt of Odin
“The Wild Hunt of Odin” 1872 by Peter Nicolai Arbo

The Norse god Odin also plays a role at this end-of-year and new year period. Odin is the big guy, comparable to Zeus from Greek mythology, Ra in Egyptian mythology, Dagda in the Celtic myths and the triad of Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu in Hindu mythology.

Odin leads the Wild Hunt, Åsgårdsreien across the sky.  From what I read, the purpose of the hunt isn’t really clear, but it seems connected to honoring the dead and especially those who fell in battle.  Some of the images of Odin and the hunt suggest that it may be part of the origin story of Santa Claus.

The last days of Jólablót are peak celebration time with a three-day feast and lots of “drinking Yule.” So, celebrate!

If you enjoy these Scandanavian topics, the blog at alehorn.com might interest you.

Published by

Ken Ronkowitz

A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

Add to the conversation about this article

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.