What is Várblót? Sigrblót?
Várblót and Sigrblót are, at the very basics, two similar holidays which fall at the same time, though only one seems to be actual reconstruction. In Ynglingasaga, it is said that at the onset of summer the Swedes held blót in honor of Óðinn for victory. [[i]] From this, the name Sigrblót, meaning “Victory Sacrifice” has been reconstructed for the holiday. In modern times, another blót has developed throughout Norse heathen groups, especially among those in Scandinavia. The holiday called Várblót, meaning “Spring Sacrifice”, is a modern construction which celebrates the spring equinox, as well as the beginning of summer following the division of the Old Norse calendar into summer and winter halves, and is likely based off of a general holiday of Sumarmál. They both celebrate the turning from the dark half of the year to the light half, but for different purposes. Whereas Sigrblót carries an undertone of voyages and conquest, Várblót has a more general or agricultural focus.
When is it celebrated?
In modern times, Várblót and Sigrblót are often celebrated around the spring equinox (March 21st) on the Gregorian calendar. However, following the Old Norse calendar, it seems that the blót would have been held rather in the month of Einmánuðr, which encompasses late March to early-mid April. Going just off of this, it could still be argued that the equinox can fall within that timeframe, but in order to narrow the window of timing we can consider the length between Midwinter and Midsummer. Because the two festivals did not originally occur at the modern solstice dates, but rather two to three weeks later, the respective date of the equinox as a midway point also shifts. [[ii]] Following a passage from Haakon the Good’s Saga in Heimskringla, it appears that Yule (midwinter) would have been held around the 12th of January, before it was moved to Christmas by the king. [[iii]] Since the Norse divided their year into winter and summer halves, we can get the date of Midsummer by moving six months (Gregorian calendar) ahead, which places the date around the twelfth of July. Remembering that the blót was technically held at the beginning of summer, the date would then lie exactly between these two dates, which places it around April 12th-14th. Of course, times have changed and modern practices often fall in line with newer calendars, but for those seeking to give their celebrations more authentic timing, mid-April would be the way to go.
Who celebrates it?
Sigrblót is recorded exclusively in Norse literature, and the linguistics also support this, as there are no records of directly related names or blót purposes in Continental or Anglo-Saxon sources, nor in areas to the east such as Baltic or Russian lands. Contrary to what has come to be popular in many modern practices, this blót would more likely be what the Norse celebrated rather than Grimm’s proposed Continental and Anglo-Saxon festival of Ostara, which is only linguistically present in those areas.
In Iceland, Ásatrúarfélagið celebrates Sigurblót on their calendar with an additional mention of the Várblót name [[iv]], while Vårblot appears on the calendar of Samfundet Forn Sed Sverige [[v]] and some other organizations likewise celebrate it in some way. Some kindreds and individuals in the United States and other places outside of Scandinavia will also celebrate this blót in one form or another, though with different traditions as well as the inclusion of Ostara in many calendars outside of Scandinavia, it is much more hit-and-miss as far as who does and does not.
How is it celebrated?
Depending on which version of this festival the individual or groups focuses upon, it may be held more in honor of agricultural or warrior gods. For Sigrblót, it is apparent from the literature that Óðinn was the god of focus. For Várblót, deities honored usually include Freyr, Freyja, Sif, Thor, Gerð and Jord; all of whom are involved with the fertility of the land and the success of the year’s crops.
Why celebrate Várblót/Sigrblót?
In modern times, it is not nearly as common for a person to be a warrior as a way of life, and Várblót is admittedly a modern construction to give a Spring celebration. However, this is the time of year when the weather turns and the light half of the year begins. For those who are involved in agriculture, it begins the time of the year when the crops spring to life to bring the year’s harvest, and for those who happen to be in the military it can symbolize the sacrifice given to insure victory. For those whose lives do not include these aspects, summer is still often a time for new undertakings, and this is a good time to hold a blót for success
[i] Sturlason, S. (1990). Heimskringla or the lives of the norse kings. (1 ed., Vol. 1, p. 6). Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.
[iii] Sturlason, S. (1990). Heimskringla or the lives of the norse kings. (1 ed., Vol. 1, p. 86). Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.
[v] Samfundet Forn Sed Sverige list and descriptions of blots. Available from: http://www.samfundetfornsed.se/om-forn-sed/årets-högtider-1283052.