The Ancient Viking Elf Blot! (ca. 800-1066)

By: The Scribe on Monday, September 10, 2007

An artist’s rendition of a Midwinter’s blot, by Carl Larsson (1915).

No, it’s not a splash of spilled ink… the ancient Norse blot was actually a pagan sacrifice to the Norse gods and the Elves, held at several times throughout the year. The sacrifice typically took the form of a sacramental feast or meal, and the sacrificial victims tended to be pigs and horses. The meat from these festivals was then boiled in enormous cooking pots heated by stones, and the blood from the animals was sprinkled on the community’s statues of their gods, on the walls, and on the people, as it was believed to hold special magical powers.

The word “blota”, from which the sacrificial festival took its name, means “to worship with sacrifice” in Old Norse, and the people would gather around the boiling pots of meat as it cooked, believing they were having a meal with the Elves! They also passed around a drink that was blessed and considered sacred, each person taking a drink as the cup came into their hands. Typically, the drink would be either beer or mead, while the high-class nobility often imported wine just for the occasion!

Several blots were held throughout the year, one in October and then later on, one in December called “The Great Midwinter Blot.” Interestingly enough, the tradition of eating ham at the December blot has continued, as it still tends to be the main course at Christmas feasts in Scandinavian countries. Around April, a third ‘summer’ blot was held in honor of the god Odin, celebrating the beginning of the season of war and Viking raid expeditions.

Blots were actually held in their own little blot buildings called ‘hovs’, however most hovs were destroyed or built over during Christianization of the area – namely, medieval churches were built overtop these spots in an effort to redeem the land. Several laws were also put into place that forbade various forms of pagan worship, but the traditions were so ingrained into the local culture that elements of the rituals have survived until today, such as the Christmas tradition.

Each Scandinavian country had their own variations on each blot throughout the year, though the basic concept remained the same: kill a pig, have dinner with elves!

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Tomorrow: more Ancient Standard!


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