This time of the year, across many cultures, celebrations abound. Many were to wish the sun strength and a return once again, some welcome a new year, and most involved friends, family, drink and games and warm fires. Saturnalia, Christmas, the Winter solstice…. And of course the Norse celebrated Jól. Attested in the Heimskringla, in the Ynglinga saga, and even the Poetic Edda, among others, Jól is one of the most attested main Blóts. It was so important that in the Saga of Hákon the Good, while Hákon was a Christian himself, much of the country was not. So, he shifted the dates to align Jól with Christianity. Before that, it was celebrated mid-January. It’s clear it was a three day celebration – or, well, the party lasted until the beer ran out, anyway. Since every man under Hákon at least had to make beer to contribute to the celebration, even with the copious quantities drank I can imagine it lasted quite a few days indeed. Today, Jól would begin on Jan 28, ending the night of the 30th, in the month they called Jólmánuður.

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But what was Jól? It was a midwinter celebration, but there’s also some evidence it was a blot for crops to grow (check out the Ynglinga saga). It was a time to celebrate being halfway through the winter – and there was gift giving, celebrations and of course, much drinking 😉 It’s said, for a King who followed Frey, there were oaths sworn on the bristles of a boar (Hervarar saga, chapter 10). And Jól was a time for peace, according to the Poetic Edda – after all, winter is foe enough.

Regarding Jól and Christmas, by the way, there’s actually some crossover between Santa and Odin. There’s some support for it; there’s some dispute of it, too, of course. Between the gift giving, and association with eight, and the name of the All-father Jolfaor, or “Jol Father”…. well, what do you believe? Of course, he’s not as Santa Claus is portrayed today, yet there may have been some threads that wound them together. And speaking of the All-father – should you hear dogs, or horses, be wary. The Wild Hunt rides in Midwinter. Any man caught out of doors could find himself caught up and carried off by the Hunt. Common throughout Scandinavia, Germanic and Anglo-Saxon, tales advise casting oneself to the ground or tossing bread for the dogs.

Asgårdsreien [The Wild Hunt of Odin] (1872) by Peter Nicolai Arbo

So how is Hrafnarfjall celebrating Jól? Of course with drinking, food and celebration! Believe me we’ll be giving thanks that we’re halfway through the winter – I’ve said before winter no joke in Minnesota, still fully in Skaði’s grip yet for months to come. We’ll also be giving a blot for a good season, and good year to come. We’ll be exchanging gifts, of course – and while we won’t be swearing vows on a boar’s bristles this year, well, who knows…. Next year maybe 😉 Anyway, as always, if you would know yet more about Hrafnarfjall: http://www.kohrafnarfjall.org

ReferencesHakon the Good: http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/heim/05hakon.htm Aldsidu.com Yule https://www.aldsidu.com/post/historical-heathen-yule. Odin and Santa https://historydaily.org/odin-and-santa#:~:text=Santa%20Claus%20has%20many%20names,primarily%20known%20in%20many%20countries. Jackson Crawford Jól https://youtu.be/UUloIBXFOQE Jackson Crawford Odin Isn’t Santa Claus https://youtu.be/_o5ih9WuCxQ Wiki on the Wild Hunt: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Hunt. Norse Mythology https://norse-mythology.org/the-wild-hunt/