Wytch Hazel Cottage

Reclaiming Our Ancestral Folkways

Category: Old Germanic Folkways

The Folkways Of Yule

Scandinavia has many ancient traditions, especially at Yule, which are rich in history and folklore. If you would like to add some ancestral meaning to your Yuletide, then here are some easy customs that you can integrate into this holiday season.

According to Norwegian tradition one should bake seven types of pastry at Yule. These include, gingerbread biscuits (pepperkaker), waffles (goro), ginger nuts (ingefaernotter), Berlin wreath butter biscuits (berlinerkranser), sand cakes (sandkaks), doughnut rings (smultringer) and syrup snaps (sirupsnipper). Just baking one of these would be a fun activity to do with friends or family.

Many Scandinavians today still believe in the tomten or fjosnisse; gnome like creatures that look after the home and surrounding land. At Yule or Christmas, people leave out a bowl of porridge with plenty of butter on the top or left over food from the Christmas dinner. By leaving gifts of appreciation for these little folk who work hard at keeping the land and home safe and happy, the tomten in return will bring good luck to the household.  If you offend one of them, then beware, as you risk bringing terrible misfortune. The tomten are shape shifters and are very hard to see, so an empty bowl of porridge is the only sign that will let you know that they are around. Leaving out a bowl of porridge is something that I will be doing over the next couple of days as part of my Yuletide celebrations.

Lille Julaften or Little Christmas Eve takes place on the 23rd of December in Norway. This is the time of making final Christmas preparations including the decorating of the tree and the cooking of rice porridge called risgrot (risengrysgrot) where an almond is hidden inside before serving to family. Lots of this porridge is eaten, as you can imagine, as everyone wants to find the lucky almond in their bowl. The lucky person wins a marzipan pig and in Germany these are given out in the New Year for good luck and are called glucksschwein.

On Mothers’ Night, the eve of Yule, it was traditional to honour the mothers of our ancestral line and the female spirits that looked over our families, as well as the Goddesses Freyja and Frigg. This can be done anytime throughout the year, but Yuletide is an extra special time as the veil between our worlds is thin, making it easier for them to hear and talk to us. Just lighting a small candle and conveying our gratitude to them is a meaningful gesture; for without their sacrifices and love we wouldn’t be here today.

The ancient symbol of the sun wheel or cross, used in sympathetic fire magic to invoke the return of the sun, can be easily crafted with small branches and evergreens. Thrown onto a Yule fire as an offering to the gods or just simply hung up as a decorative wreath, the sun cross is a powerful image that brought hope to our ancestors during the long harsh winters of the north. Small ones can also be crafted and put on the Yule or Christmas tree.

The Yule Goat is a Yuletide figure from Scandinavian mythology, going back to the myths of Thor and his magical goats who pulled his wagon across the skies. Modern day versions are crafted out of straw and decorated with red ribbon and used as Yule ornaments. Yule Goats made out of felt or clay would also be a great craft to do.

If you are wanting to build a relationship with the gods and goddesses of the north, then those who have a connection with winter and the dark half of the year are Skadi the goddess and giantess associated with winter, hunting and mountains; Ullr the god associated with hunting, skiing and sledding (these two did not get married after Skadi’s failed marriage to Njord), Nott the goddess of night, Freyr the god associated with fertility and agriculture and Odinn, the allfather. Two of his names are actually Jolnir and Ylir which associate him with Yule. Thor would have been honoured at this time as well, as he is the protector of mankind. And last but not least, Sunna or Sol the goddess of the sun.

There is much debate as to whether the figure of Odin eventually morphed into the Father Christmas that we know of today. Earlier depictions of Father Christmas were of an older man, dressed in blue and green, much thinner than the Coca Cola version and much more Odin like. The eventual story of the eight reindeer could possibly be descended from the eight legs of Odin’s horse Sleipnir and the reindeer names Donner (German) and Blitzen (Old English) which mean thunder and lightning might be a connection to Thor. Whatever the truth, many children in Scandinavia leave straw in their boots or stockings as a treat for the reindeer or Sleipnir. Much better than a carrot!

Without doubt, food plays an important role at this time of year, so if we want to feast like a viking what do we need to serve up for the Julebord (Jule feast)? Ham, sausage, meatballs, pork ribs, mutton ribs, dumplings, pickled herrings, salmon, red beet salad with pickled vegetables and potato salad are some of the many delicacies eaten. Quite often there are dishes of moose and reindeer too.

The Scandinavians love Yuletide so much that there is an extended period between Christmas and New Year’s Eve called Romjul or Julefred which means Christmas Peace. This is a quiet time where many of the shops are closed and people spend this week with family, enjoying some downtime or winter sports. All hunting is prohibited during this period as well. This time is a perfect excuse to reflect on the past year and to think ahead to the next twelve months; learning from past lessons and setting future goals. Then perhaps swearing an oath to the gods on Nyttar (New Year’s Eve). At your peril of course 😉

Wishing you all a God Jul and Happy New Year.

Winter Rites Of Northern Europe

Yule as a twelve day celebration is a modern concept inspired by the Christmas carol, ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. In fact, this midwinter celebration only spanned three night and possibly took place over the three nights of the full moon, much like other pagan Scandinavian festivals such as Winter Nights.

The word Yule has Indo European roots that are still visible in northern Europe today. In Denmark, Norway and Sweden it is called Jul and in Iceland and the Faroe Islands it is Jol. The proto Germanic word for Yule was Jehwla and the old English word used by the Anglo Saxons was Giuli. The whole season which roughly corresponded to the months of December and January was called Geola. December, in Anglo Saxon England was referred to as aerra Geola meaning the time before Yule and January was called afterra Geola meaning the time following Yule. In Bede’s ‘The Reckoning of Time’, he wrote that Giuli was the day that the sun turned back before increasing in light again. The Anglo Saxons made this day the first of their new year and began their celebrations with Modranecht (Modraniht). Bede explained that these old festivities were celebrated at the same time as Christmas. This is because back when the Julian calendar was used, the 25th of December was the time of the Winter Solstice. Bede, being a Christian monk, does not go into any details about how these rites were celebrated.

Modranecht took place on the eve of the midwinter festival. Mothers’ Night was spent honouring all mothers and also the Disir (female spirits who looked over the family). There is plenty of evidence of there having been a Germanic Mother cult, but no one is sure whether this cult had a connection with Mothers’ Night. There is no evidence of Modranecht ever being observed in Scandinavia, however that doesn’t mean that it was never practised there.

The word Jol in Swedish means wheel; the seasonal wheel that is continuously turning and represents the cycle of life. Goddess Frigg, while in her palace, spun clouds that floated down to the human world of Midgard. Perhaps this wheel is reminiscent of Frigg’s own spinning wheel.

Yule is rarely mentioned in the Icelandic Sagas, but from what little is written we do know that this time of year was celebrated with much feasting, singing and drinking. However, nothing is said about the rituals or prayers that were performed, due mainly to the fact that the authors of these Medieval texts were Christian.

In the Saga of Hakon the Good, the Norwegian Christian king Hakon passed a law that all Pagan and Christian festivities were to be celebrated at the same time. He also stipulated that during this period four gallons of ale were to be drunk by every man. This was known as ‘drinking jol’. King Hakon was very tolerant of Pagan practices and did not force his own faith upon his people and they were very accepting of their Christian king as well.

Animals would have been sacrificed for the Yule feasts and were also offerings to the gods, especially horses. King Hakon was once invited to a pagan Yule feast where he refused to eat the horse meat that was being served because the act of doing so was pagan. Eventually, to keep the peace, he compromised and just smelt the aromas of the cooked meat. At another Yule feast, things didn’t go as smoothly and it is said that Hakon was forced to eat some horse liver without even being able to make the sign of the cross beforehand.

In Svarfdaela Saga, there is mention of a warrior who postpones a fight until after Yule and there is a detailed account of a Yule feast in Egil’s Saga Skallagrimssonar. In the Saga of Grettir, two Norwegian farmers drink ‘Yule’ together and in the Saga of the Greenlanders, Eric the Red is worried that he will not be ready to host a Yule feast. Thankfully, the feast is saved when Thorfinnar brings malt with him to make the ale. Lastly, there is a funny story about a farmer called Ingjaldur who pushes aside his dislike of foreigners so he can buy some decorative Yule evergreens for his feast from a Norwegian merchant. Being a good host was seen as extremely important, so the food, drink and even the decorations was a serious undertaking.

The swearing of oaths was seen as extremely important during the Viking Age. Oaths were viewed as ironclad and if broken could be punished by death if they were not fulfilled. Oaths made at Yule were even more serious and some appear to have been marriage related, such as in Hervarar saga ok Heidreks and Sturlaugs saga starfsama. The oaths were made by swearing on a boar’s head like Helgi did in Helgakvida Hjorvardssonar.

There was once a ritual where men would toast to their future deeds; much like New Year’s resolutions, but more meaningful and serious. Again hands were laid on a boar’s head and the sacrificial animal was offered up to the gods with the sworn oath. A sacred oath to Freyr perhaps because the boar was associated with him.

One of the oldest symbols of this time of year is the Yulebukk or the Yule Goat, which is believed to have its roots in Indo European folklore. In Scandinavia today, the Yule Goat is an ornament made out of straw and decorated with red ribbon. Traditionally, some people burn the straw Yulebukk as an offering on their Yule fire. This is a remnant of our forbears sacrificing goats to the God Thor in return for favours. There is an ancient connection to Thor and goats. He has two goats, Tanngrisni (Gap Tooth) and Tanngnost (Tooth Grinder) who pull his wagon across the sky. Large versions of the Yule Goat can be found in towns and cities all over Scandinavia at this time of year. The most well known is the Gavle Goat which goes up at the beginning of Advent.

It was traditional to sacrifice boars as well as cattle and horses during the long dark winter months, but with the arrival of Christianity, animal sacrifice was forbidden. Pagans, therefore, began to dress up as animals instead, especially wearing goat skins and masks, going from door to door, singing, dancing and offering blessings to the household in exchange for food, drink or money. Even today children in Scandinavia dress up in masks and go knocking on people’s doors, singing and receiving sweets.

In Finland children are visited by the Joulupukki, the Yule goat, and this is very similar to an ancient Finnish tradition where people called the Nuutipukkis used to dress up in goat hides and dance around singing.

The Joulupukki goes from house to house on a sleigh pulled by reindeer, knocking on doors and asking if there are any good children living there. If so, then presents are given and opened. The Joulupukki wears a red coat and walks with a wooden walking stick. His workshop is in Korvatunturi, Lapland and he is married to Joulumuori (Mother Yule).

Another Yule character was the Yule Cat and in the 19th century good children used to receive new clothes at Yule while naughty children were taken away by the Yule Cat. Farmers left out food for the village cats in the hope that this would please the Goddess Freya and in return she would bless their crops.

One of the most ancient symbols of all is the sun cross that goes back as far as the Neolithic and Bronze age periods. The sun cross looks like a circle with a cross inside of it and can also resemble a wagon wheel with spokes. Also known as Odin’s wheel it was often made with evergreens and tree branches (like a wreath) and thrown onto the Yule fire to invoke the sun’s return. Other folk would set a large sun wheel on fire and roll it down a hill, with the same intention of invoking the sun that blessed the earth with life and abundance.

There was an old Scandinavian custom that used the last ear of corn reaped at the last harvest to bake a loaf of bread in the shape of a boar.

A tomte (Sweden), nisse (Norway and Denmark) or tonttu (Finland) is a little creature from Scandinavian folklore that is associated with Yule. He has a long white beard, a tall pointy red hat and is a mischievous gnome who looks after the farm and its inhabitants including the livestock. His name means ‘homestead man’.

A tomte doesn’t ask for much in return for his hard work, just a bowl of porridge at Yule or Christmas with plenty of butter on top. A well looked after farm is one that has a happy tomte living there. Tomten are even prepared to steal from neighbouring farms to keep things running smoothly. A solitary figure, the tomte does not take kindly to interference or foolery and can resort to nastiness if he isn’t pleased; from small pranks to killing livestock. In Sweden, the Yule Tomte accompanies the Yule Goat who pulls a sleigh full of gifts for all the children. The tomte was also known as the haugkall which translates to ‘mound farmer’. As the ancestors were buried in mounds and were believed to live there, it is more than likely that this figure from folklore has roots in an ancestral cult. If a farm was doing much better than its neighbours, then a farmer could be accused of having a tomte that was carrying out ungodly work and stealing from other farms. At the time this was seen to be as terrible as witchcraft.

Wishing you all a lovely Yuletide. 

Autumnal Rites Of The Germanic Peoples

In some parts of northern Europe the month of September was once called ‘Halegmonath’ which means Holy Month in Anglo-Saxon and ‘Haustmandur’ which means autumn month in old Norse. Bede, a Christian scholar wrote in his manuscript entitled  ‘The Reckoning of Time’ that, “in the ninth month in the year there are thirty days. The month is called in Latin September and in our language Holy Month, because our ancestors, when they were heathen, sacrificed to their idols in the month”. Sadly, he doesn’t say why September was a holy month, nor what kind of ritual sacrifices took place. However, we can presume that these sacred rites were sacrifices to the gods and that they were a private affair taking place in the home, rather than part of a wider community.

The months of Halegmonath and Winterfylleth (October) were a time of winter preparation for our northern ancestors. The growing season was short and by the end of August, the crops would have been harvested and stored safely away; including winter feed for their livestock. Fruit was harvested and as well as berries which were preserved in skyr, a sour milk cheese that stopped people from succumbing to what they called ‘the winter sickness’.

Bede refered to the following month of November as Blodmonath (blood month) and explained that the Angles (from modern day Denmark and Germany) ritually sacrificed their cattle and made offerings to their gods. It is most probable that the slaughtered animals (rams, goats, horses and pigs were associated with this season) were those that were unlikely to survive the winter, allowing families to have enough fodder to feed their remaining livestock.

Our ancestors of northern Europe only recognised two seasons; winter and summer. They did not celebrate the Autumn Equinox nor Samhain, so it was their location and climate that dictated when they celebrated harvest festivals, which for them could take place at any time during September and October.

Today’s Heathens, however, who follow Asatru do celebrate an Autumn Equinox festival called ‘Winter Finding’ and in the Urglaawe tradition (Deitch Pennsylvania German Heathenry) their festival is called ‘Erntfescht’. There are other modern Heathens that celebrate’ Haustablot’, which means ‘Autumn Sacrifice’ or ‘Fallfest’. These festivals are all in sync with the Wiccan celebration of Mabon.

Winter Nights (Vetrnaetr), not to be confused with ‘Winter Finding’, was a three day festival that is mentioned in several of the Sagas (the Icelandic Sagas are a collection of Medieval stories about Iceland and the families that lived there). Vetrnaetr marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter in the old Norse calendar. Because this calendar was lunar it is believed that Winter Nights would have taken place around the middle of October. Yule is also mentioned as lasting three nights and Nils Lithberg from the Northern Museum of Stockholm believed that these transitional periods took place during the time when the moon was full and at its brightest. This is a very interesting theory, especially for those of us who work with lunar energy.

Winter Nights would have consisted of a ritual sacrifice (blot) of an animal along with other offerings such as mead, ale, food and personal belongings (only wealthy landowners would have been able to hold blot on this scale). These ritual gifts were offered up to the gods, ancestors and land spirits in gratitude for the harvest and for protection throughout the coming winter months. Snorrri Sturluson, the Icelandic poet, historian and politician, describes a blot in his ‘Saga of Hakon the Good’. In it he explains that livestock were killed in a ritual manner and their blood sprinkled over idols of the gods as well as the people who were present. The meat was first cooked over a fire that ran along the centre of the feasting hall before being blessed by the chieftain hosting the feast. The meat was then shared among the guests who toasted to the ancestors and to the Gods Odin, Njordur and Freyr with ale that was in a horn and had also been blessed. Blood was then sprinkled over the walls to infuse power into the building as well as avert bad luck. It is possible that the blood stains were used for divination and prophesy telling.

Farmers in the Trondheim district in Norway were known to hold great feasts at the beginning of winter. Toasts were made to both tribes of the Norse Gods; the Aesir for victory and the Vanir for fertility, prosperity and peace. Cattle and horses were slaughtered and their blood was used to redden idols of the gods. More horses were sacrificed than any other animal, as they were seen as representing great power and virility.

Recent archaeological evidence found in Iceland suggests that cattle were slaughtered by simultaneously striking the animal between the eyes while beheading it with a two handed axe (this would have created a fountain of blood). The animal heads were then displayed outside. It was believed that performing such sacrifices would appease the gods who would then look upon the people more favourably.

Like many old Norse festivals, there was not only one way to celebrate. Each household would have celebrated their own way, including what gods and beings were honoured. The Sagas do, however, mention that the Disir, the Elves, Odinn and Freyr were honoured during the autumn months; perhaps singularly or all together.

In ‘Egil’s Saga’, Egil and Ovir are refused ale when they visit a man named Bard because it was being saved for the Disablot. A Disablot was a ritual sacrifice and feast that was enjoyed at this time of year to honour and thank the female spirits of the Disir for the harvest. Some of the Disir were female ancestors that protected their family lines and others were guardian spirits of the land. The guardian spirits of the land (Landwights or Landvaettir) were believed to bring good fortune and protect children and animals. Snorri Sturlusson, interestingly enough, calls the Goddesses Freya ‘Vanadis’ (Dis of the Vanir) and Skadi as ‘Ondurdis’ (Snowshoe Dis). In old Norse literature ‘dis’ is the general term for ‘goddess’ or could even simply mean ‘woman’, especially in old Norse poetry. Disablot, which was held in a Disarsair (Hall of the Dis), is mentioned in several sagas. In ‘Flateyjarbok’, guests at a Disablot are told not to go outside, ‘because great harm will come about’. Here the disir are portrayed as being dangerous. Also included within the Disir are the Norns who were the goddesses of fate.

Offerings that were left on hills, at waterfalls, woods, groves and standing stones would have been made to the landvaettir for protection and fertility as well as good harvests. These spirits were peaceful and extremely offended by violence on their land. Confusingly, there isn’t a distinct difference between the Disir and other spirits such as the Fylgjur, the Hamingjur and the Landwights. Even the Valkyries are referred to as ‘Odin’s Disir’.

There are many stories within the Sagas that tell of Volvas communicating with spirits such as the Fylgur and the Disir. ‘Volr’ in old Norse means staff or wand, so a Volva was a staff or wand carrying woman. These seeresses would travel throughout the winter to different feasts foretelling people’s fates over the coming months. Nothing is known of the magic that was practiced by these women, but in the saga of ‘Erik the Red’, there is a very detailed description of the clothes worn by the volva in the story. It is also said that she sat on a raised seat; perhaps so she could see more clearly into the other realms while communicating with the spirits.

In the ‘Book of Settlements’, an Icelandic manuscript from the early Middle Ages, it is said, ‘that winter Ingolfr held a great sacrifice to discover what the future had in store for him.’ So it seems that it was a time not only for honouring and sacrificing, but for asking for spiritual guidance in return. A gift for a gift.

Before continuing, I just wanted to explain what Fylgyur are. A Fylgja is a spirit that accompanies a person from their birth to their death. The name can also mean afterbirth. Fylgjur normally appear as animals and reflect the personality of the person. For instance, a strong leader may have a boar as a Fylgjur and a cunning man a fox. These guardian spirits are mostly seen at the moment of a person’s death, by someone else who is there at the time. Sometimes they can appear as an omen of impending death. The Hamingjur were a similar type of guardian spirit.

In pre-Christian Sweden there was once a harvest rite called Alfablot; which was a sacrificial rite for the Elves. Elves were as having more power during the dark half of the year and offerings of ale and meat were made to them to keep the peace. Offerings were believed to make them even stronger and more able to help with  the fertility of the land and with healing. In ‘Kormaks Saga’, a Volva helps the loser of a dual to spill the blood of a bull on a hill where Elves lived, so that they could feast upon the meat and encourage the man’s healing. The ancestral fathers were thought to live among the Elves in mounds or within mountains and the Elves were possibly perceived as male ancestors. Pagans would sit on these burial mounds or on the sacred hills and mountains where the dead were thought to live, meditating until a message was received.

In 1018, Sigvatr Pordarson, a Christian poet of king Olaf of Norway was sent on a diplomatic mission to Sweden. Most of Sweden at this time was still pagan. It was autumn time and Sigvatr and his companions were searching for a place to rest, but at each farmstead they arrived at they were all sharply turned away. At one of the farms, they came across a woman who told them to go away and said to Sigvatr, “Don’t go further inside unlucky man! We are afraid of Odin´s wrath; we are pagans!” Then she chased them away. This refusal to be hospitable to travellers was unthinkable in Norse culture, so this behaviour underlines the great importance of Alfablot. This was a sacred time with only family members attending who were really only wanting to honour their dead in private. This holy rite took place between the end of October and the beginning of November.

The Elves connection to the harvest naturally links them to the god Freyr who is the ruler of Alfheim, the land of the elves. Snorri describes Freyr as the most glorious among the Aesir. ‘He rules rain and sunshine and by this he rules the harvests of the Earth’. He is good to invoke for the purpose of a good harvest and for peace. He also rules the welfare of people.

Freyr was the god most associated with fertility and sexuality and represents the essence of masculine power. Horse races and fighting took place during harvest celebrations and the horse was a sacred animal to him. In the ‘Volsa Pattr’ from the ‘Flateybok’, a medieval Icelandic manuscript consisting of mainly Sagas about the old Norse kings, an autumn ritual is described. At a Norwegian farm the phallus of a horse was preserved in onions and herbs and every evening the mother of the household would unwrap it from its cloth and prayed to it, before handing the phallus over to the other family members who did the same. This took place throughout the autumn. On hearing of this worship, King Olaf II of Norway, wanted to convert them to Christianity. The king went to the farm and sat with them watching  as the woman came out with the phallus and placed it on her husband’s lap saying, “May the giantess Mornir accept this holy object”. Everyone in the room repeated this apart from the king who began preaching about Christianity. After this they all became Christian.

This post has been the most difficult for me to research so far and has been a real labour of love. There was a mountain’s worth of information to go through, but I am ever so grateful to have spent all of this time on the subject because it has truly opened my eyes to how powerful a living spirituality really is. Pre-Christian spirituality was one with a people’s culture, language and landscape; ever evolving with the passing of time and tribal migrations. These oral traditions were passed down from generation to generation and while subtle changes were made, their core values of love, honour, strength and wisdom stayed the same as they continued to honour the gods and ancestors of their people.

The Origins Of Freyfaxi

Freyfaxi is the modern name given to a Heathen festival that took place during harvest time in northern Europe. The timing of this harvest varied greatly depending on where our ancestors lived, but it would have been sometime during the month of August.

Sadly, the old Norse name for this festival has long been lost, but we do understand enough to know that it was very much like Lughnasadh, Lammas and Hlaefmaesse. It was a time of gratitude, sacrifice and prayer, celebrating the successful harvest of the current year as well as making offerings for the following year’s crops.

During this period, the autumn winds brought the Vikings back to their homelands after their summer raids abroad. Swapping swords for scythes they helped their families harvest the crops and store them safely away for the cold months ahead.

The early autumn was a time of fairs and horse fighting. Some believe that horse fighting very likely stems from an ancient pagan ritual that was also seen as a sport. Horse fighting and what it entails can be found in several of the Sagas. Many carvings have been found in northern Europe depicting horse fighting scenes, with some of them showing sun like wheels as well. So quite possibly these fights symbolised the battle between life and death. A common theme that has Indo European roots.

The Icelandic Sagas as well as other sources depict horses as sacred creatures with a divine connection to the gods. Even as far back as the Bronze Age, a horse’s behaviour was observed in a divinatory manner.

The name Freyfaxi can be found in Hrafnkel’s Saga. In this saga, Freyfaxi (‘faxi’ means “eye catching mane”) is a beautiful horse owned by Hrafnkel who dedicates himself to the god Freyr. Hrafnkel offers up Freyfaxi to Frey and makes an oath to kill anyone who rides the horse.  It is a tragic tale of how oaths should never be taken lightly. There is also mention of another horse called Freyfaxi in Vatnsdaela’s Saga.

There is clear evidence of a horse cult that honoured Freyr having existed in Norway (Thrandheim) in the tenth century. Frey’s cult consisted of day to day folk such as farmers who would have offered up sacrifices to Freyr for prosperity and peace.

The Haggeby Stone discovered in Sweden is a rock carving that shows horses fighting and dates from 5th century C.E (image via odinsvolk.ca)

A goddess who is honoured by modern Heathens at harvest time is Sif. She is an earth goddess with long golden hair who has it cut off by the god Loki. This is a tale that symbolises the harvest. Her husband Thor is also honoured for he brings the rain and sun to the crops as well as protection from hail. And lastly Nerthus (Mother Earth) who is depicted in the Roman writer Tacitus’ ‘Germania’. Nerthus has a chariot that is drawn by cows and in a procession goes from village to village where everyone celebrates, weapons are locked away and peace comes over them all until she goes back to her sacred grove. In a lake, slaves cleanse her and the chariot before they themselves are drowned in the same waters. We don’t know if a young woman embodied the goddess or whether it was a statue that represented her.

The Landvaettir, who are the guardian spirits of the land are also honoured at harvest time. They are offered gifts of food and milk to thank them for their help in nurturing and protecting the land and all who live there.

I hope you enjoyed this and that your interest will take you on to do your own research especially by reading the Icelandic Sagas.