Old Norse legends / Columns / The Foreigner

Old Norse legends. Sacrifice to the Elves (Álfablót), of pagan religion, was held in autumn between the fall equinox and at the end of harvest. It is mentioned in Old Norse sources just three times. Álfablót is believed to have been a tradition of local celebration by an individual or one family to honour the male ancestors and spirits. It was a very secret and intimate ritual. Female ancestors have their own time of celebration (Yule). Sacrifice to the Elves began near the end of October and carried on to the start of November, with elves and land-spirits being amongst those honoured during this time. Strangers or outsiders were not welcome. The tale of the Christian traveller to Sweden

norse, mythology, legends, elves, halloween, paywall



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Old Norse legends

Published on Sunday, 30th October, 2016 at 10:37 under the columns category, by Sarah Bostock.

Sacrifice to the Elves (Álfablót), of pagan religion, was held in autumn between the fall equinox and at the end of harvest. It is mentioned in Old Norse sources just three times.

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Álfablót is believed to have been a tradition of local celebration by an individual or one family to honour the male ancestors and spirits. It was a very secret and intimate ritual. Female ancestors have their own time of celebration (Yule).

Sacrifice to the Elves began near the end of October and carried on to the start of November, with elves and land-spirits being amongst those honoured during this time. Strangers or outsiders were not welcome.

The tale of the Christian traveller to Sweden

One source, ‘Austrfaravisur’, dating back from the early 11th Century in Sweden, is written by Icelandic Sigvatr Þórðarson – or Sigvatr the skald (995-1045).

In the autumn of 1018, Sigvatr travelled to Sweden, only to find he was refused entry to any farms he tried to visit because the ‘Sacrifice to the Elves’ was commencing. According to Sigvatr’s account, he and his men were told to leave by a lady at one of the farms, who chased him away.

“Don’t go further inside unlucky man! We are afraid of Óðin’s wrath; we are pagans!” she is said to have uttered.

Determined to find a place to sleep, Sigvatr continued to knock on doors, only he was met with men who called themselves ‘Ölvir.’ The title translates to “Beer-Man”, probably guardians during the sacrifice.

His determination became desperation. Sigvatr and his company decided to look for a man who was reputedly a very hospitable person; only when they found him, he turned out to be no different from the other villagers, refusing them entry.

Fair folk and darkness 

The Sacrifice to the “Elves” does not refer to faerie creatures, but rather to spirits that are of nature and the souls of men who have departed from this world-who can still be communicated with, so the story goes. Elves are said to have a close connection to ancestors and fertility.

There are also creatures that live beneath the Earth, creatures that become powerful during autumn and winter. It was because of this that the villagers would try to appease them and these other creatures.

Dark Elves (Dökkalfar), for example, enter the world during the first month of darkness. They would be of good-nature and aid the people of the land during the cold weather and ensure the land remained bountiful, calling upon the powers of male ancestors who still live among the elves, to protect the land from dark powers.

In order to remain on good terms with these dark creatures, it was crucial that they were honoured for their assistance with things such as beer (Ölvir) and meat (kjǫt) left as presents on the doorstep.

Towards the light

Ljósálfar, in contrast, were said to be Light Elves. These lived in higher realms, and unlike Dark Elves, they had less interactions with humans and other creatures belonging to the realm.

Not much is known about Álfablót and the celebrations, other than it being a holiday dedicated to Norse myth and Odin.

The intimacy and secrecy of Álfablót means there are still mysteries surrounding the Scandinavian pagan tradition, and some may leave treats out for the spirits still.

However you choose to spend this time of year, be aware of what is on your doorstep.

(Additional sources: scribd.com, northernway.org, Wikipedia, ‘Sea Sky Soil: An Introduction to Waincraft’)




Published on Sunday, 30th October, 2016 at 10:37 under the columns category, by Sarah Bostock.

This post has the following tags: norse, mythology, legends, elves, halloween, paywall.





  
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