What is Höstblot?
As September begins, the Summer half of the year nears its end. Höstblot a modern Heathen festival which is celebrated near the end of this month (modern Autumnal equinox), and is a celebration to bid farewell to the long days and warmth of the Summer half of the year, and to bid welcome to the long nights of the Winter half. The name translates to “Autumn sacrifice”, as this is the beginning of Autumn in modern times. At this time of the year, the daylight and the darkness are at their most equal before the dark takes over, so this is the transition point in which we give honor to what has been accomplished and what is yet to come.
The historical Winter half of the year began around mid-October and was celebrated with the festival of Winternights, which has also been revived in modern Heathen traditions. Many will choose to observe one or the other for this purpose, and some will also combine the two as one celebration serving the overall purpose, especially with Autumn now appearing on the calendars.
Who celebrates it?
Höstblot is fairly ubiquitous within the modern Scandinavian Heathen traditions, though the spelling will vary by region (eg: while Höstblot is modern Swedish, the name is spelled as Haust Blót in Icelandic). Since the southern regions such as Continental Germany do not experience such a contrast in temperatures and daylight as do the northern areas, the transition from the light half to the dark half of the year was not as quick or extreme, and this holiday is not really documented from there.
How is it celebrated?
At this time, it is good to honor Sunna as both thanks for the sunlight which has warmed the lands, and for her eventual return to us in full glory. Odin is also honored at this time, as we seek inspiration for the long, cold nights ahead. As the Winter half of the year begins, Skadi and Ullr are honored as well. Both deities are associated with Winter and the hunt, so their influence is ever greater during this time.
For the blot as I have lead it, a fire is lit and the landvaettir are hailed with the rattling of keys or drumming and a song of companionship and sharing of the wealth of the year’s harvest. As the leaves begin to fall from the trees, the land spirits will soon be leaving or going into dormancy, and this is the time when we commune with them before they are gone until Summer comes again.
After the invitation to the landvaettir, the gods are hailed and petitioned for their blessings in the coming dark of Winter. Sunna is thanked for her warmth and light; Odin, Skadi and Ullr are asked for their blessings of success and inspiration for the hunt and the long nights.
The blot continues as normal past these particular hails and petitions, and the guests usually feast around the last of summer’s fires.
Why celebrate Höstblot?
This holiday is sort of a last hurrah before the weather turns and the days are short, so it is a time to be outside and to gather with friends. Maybe take a day around this and go for a hike or just hang out outside and enjoy the weather while it’s there to be enjoyed. Either way, it is both a time for celebration and preparation.