Did the Vikings Have Any Celebration Kind of Halloween?
As Halloween is approaching, it's time for this preparation and decoration for this awesome celebration. Many of the Viking enthusiasts will share the common questions if the Vikings ever celebrated Halloween party? It actually depends on the way we define Halloween. If we view it as a modern celebration, then we are sure to get the "no, they didn't" to the question. But if we define it as a celebration of the pre-Christianization or kind of the Mexican Day of the Dead or the Irish Samhain, then yes, the Viking did have that kind of celebration. The Vikings themselves had the celebrations called the Blóts. There were two main kinds of "Blots" in the Viking culture: the Alfablot and the Disablot.
Generally, "blot" is the term for Viking sacrifice. It was the worshipping ritual dedicated to the Norse gods and some mysterious creatures. Every blot included the part of the animal sacrifice.
The Alfablot is the sacrifice for the elves as the name indicates. In Norse mythology, we have the world "Alfheim" where the elves lived when "heim" means "home" then "alf" means "elf". So the Alfablot is indeed a sacrifice from the Norse men to the elves. The celebration would take place at the end of the autumn when the leaves started the fall and the harvest finally came to an end.
But how could the Alfablot relate to the Day of the Dead or the Irish Samhein. First, we need to have a quick definition for these two celebrations. The former is to honor the beloved ones who are no longer physically with them. The later is to mark the end of the harvesting season and herald a dark time coming ahead. We can relate this to the belief of the Vikings about the dead and the elves in their traditional culture. Elves were the spirits that lived inside the mounds or just beneath the land. Because elves were a kind of incarnation of the human soul. An example of this is King Olaf of Geirstad who later became Olaf Geirstad-Alf. After the death of King Olaf, he was buried and honored with new name Olaf Geirstad-Alf. From this example, we can relate that the Alfablot is also to remember the ancestor which resembles the main purpose of the Day of the Dead.
Viking Alfablot would happen in privacy. No strangers or outsiders could be included
One cool thing is that the blot was for the elves, we can see a connection between this blot and Freyr god of fertility and harvest. Also, Freyr was believed to be the ruler of Alfheim (Land of the elves). The Alfablot was celebrated after the harvesting season which might have been a way to show how thankful the Vikings were to the ancestors and High Power that blessed them.
The problem was that the Alfablot was a private event so little do we know about this event. The Alfablot was mentioned in the poem Austrfararvísur by the Norwegian Sigvatr Þórðarson. As Sigvatr and his fellows were sent for kind of diplomatic mission, they encountered trouble of not finding the places to rest at nights. They arrived at a homestead and expected to be treated with hospitality but the door of the house remained shut. Sigvatr tried to talk with the people inside but the people inside refused to open the door and said the house was now a sacred place and no one could enter. Then off they went to another home. Like the first time, they were said to go away by a woman. "Don't go further inside unlucky man. We are afraid of Odin's wrath. We are pagans" said the woman. That is to say, the Alfablot couldn't be observed by the strangers and people that didn't belong to the family. Because it was a celebration for the ancestors of the family and the family's life force.
God Freyr with his magical sword and powerful boar as his symbol
Disablot was also among the famous blot of the Vikings. Unlike the Alfablot, the Disablot was celebrated in the public and observed by many people. The ceremony was carried out and led by the woman or mother. The Disablot was to dedicated to the disir. The word "Dis" means "lady" and the "disir" is the plural form. The celebration happened during the Winter Nights which were known as the vetrnætr which means "three days prior to the winter".
The Disablot is believed to have been held to wish for the upcoming season and to honor the disir who might be the Valkyries (Odin's female helping spirits), Freya (Goddess of fertility and love also the twin sister of god Freyr), or the Norns (the Norse fate creators).
Viking disir in a depiction