A Very Viking Halloween

A Very Viking Halloween

What harvest and "Day of the Dead" celebrations did the Vikings have?
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As October begins and leaves start to fall, the anticipation for Halloween becomes crisp in the air. As a holiday, many are aware of the Celtic origin of Halloween and the Christian influences that have caused it to evolve over the ages into what it is now. So I'm not going to talk about that, since it's been talked about in great length so much already. What I wanted to know is did the Vikings have a Halloween equivalent? The answer lies in how we define Halloween. If we define it as the modern holiday that we celebrate today then no, they did not. But, if we look back at the Pre-Christian basis for Halloween and especially the Mexican Day of the Dead the answer is certainly a yes. The Nordic peoples had ritual celebrations called blóts which occurred throughout the year, including just before the harvest season, and were sacrificial towards a specific goal. The two blót s that I will be looking at are the Álfablót and the Dísablót.


The Álfablót

In preparation for this article, this blót was the first to come up in my searching for a Nordic equivalent of Halloween. The Álfablót is a sacrifice to the elves at the end of the autumnal season and harvest. How this relates to a "Day of the Dead" is through the mythological understanding of elves in Nordic culture. Alfs (Elves) were associated with burial mounds (pictured below) as they would live in and around them. The reasoning behind this is many texts suggest that elves were merely another incarnation of a human soul or that the dead were merely referred to as elves. An excellent example is of King Olaf of Geirstad, or later known as Olaf Geirstad-Alf. King Olaf, after he died and was buried in a mound, was venerated as an elf, giving him his new name of Olaf Geirstad-Alf (the elf of Geirstad). With this connection between elves and the dead, the Álfablót was possibly concerned with ancestor worship. Since this sacrifice is towards elves, it stands to reason that Freyr, one of the most important gods in Norse mythology, is involved as well.

Freyr was given Álfheimr, the realm of the elves, as a teething gift. This insinuates that Freyr is the ruler of the elves (which many texts claim, as well). Other than his patronage through fertility and prosperity, it is possible that Freyr can be associated with the souls of the dead, since many texts suggest elves and those souls are one in the same. So the Álfablót is just as much a sacrifice to him as it is to the elves. The trouble with the Álfablót is that it was an extremely private event, even going as far as disregarding hospitality and turning travelers away, and so there aren't many details out there about it. All we are left with is putting the puzzle pieces together, as you can see.


The Dísablót

In contrast to the Álfablót, the Dísablót was a public event that was widely celebrated. In fact, it is still celebrated today at Uppsala, Sweden. Carried out by the head woman or mother, the Dísablót was a blót held during the vetrnætr or Winter Nights which were a span of days which marked the transition between the harvest season and the winter season. This blót was a celebration in honor of the Dísir, the goddesses and female entities of the Nordic world. These spirits tended to influence fertility, fate, and well being in general, just as the classical Halloween celebrations are concerned with warding off harmful spirits. There is drinking, feasting, celebration, and glory honoring of spirits through sacrifice and such. The goddesses and beings that would have been most likely sacrificed to during this celebration are Freyja, Hel, the Valkyries, the Norns, the Fylgjur, and female ancestors in general. Most, if not all, of those beings were associated with death or spirits.


Freyja

The twin sister of Freyr, Freyja, in short, is the goddess of love, beauty, fertility, war, and death. Half of the dead who fall in battle go to her realm, Fólkvangr, which is much like the Greek Elysium. The connections between sacrificing to Freyja and honoring one's deceased ancestors are not hard to make here. The links to harvest and fertility, much like her brother, further strengthen the notions of a classic Halloween-like celebration.


Hel

As a being and a place, Hel receives the dead that don't die in battle, but rather die in old age or from disease. Hel controls vast legions of souls and can even control who comes and goes through her realm. It is possible that a sacrifice to Hel would be an attempt to curry favor with this being so that they or an ancestor may be treated well in her halls, or perhaps as a way of sending a message to the dead.


Valkyries, Norns, and Fylgjur

I lump these three together because they all have a similar function having to do with fate or the dead.

Valkyries (pictured below), literally "the choosers of the slain," decide who will die in battle for them to take to Valhalla. To sacrifice to them would be a plea to be honored with the glory of being taken to Valhalla by these beings, as well as a way to honor those who are in Valhalla.

The Norns are beings who control the fates of men and gods alike. It would, obviously, be favorable to sacrifice and honor these beings.

The Fylgjur are a tricky bunch. They are similar to guardian spirits that follow a person around and have an influence on their fortune and certain outcomes of fate. It is noted that if a Fylgjur appears in the form of a women good fortune for the self or the family is in the waiting. An attempt to bring about such fortune at the Dísablót would be beneficial to a community as a whole and would ward off evil beings or events.

From what I have listed here, and read otherwise, both instances of celebration are as close to a Halloween as the Vikings got. The theme of honoring or sacrificing to the dead or beings that have some charge of the dead stays consistent with the origins of Halloween. I as well see the differences between the Dísablót and the Álfablót as a more strict version of what we do today. Our modern Dísablót is the eating, drinking, and fun in close regard to the dead. We dress up as and mimic the dead as a way of bringing us closer to our ancestors. Our Álfablót is the familial remembrances of loved ones as well as the observance of superstitions towards the dead. We have a period of thought and veneration for our own elves.

Happy Halloween, my friends.

Cover Image Credit: http://odroerirjournal.com/season-of-the-disir-winternights-and-the-disablot-in-early-medieval-scandinavian-belief/

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If You've Ever Been Called Overly-Emotional Or Too Sensitive, This Is For You

Despite what they have told you, it's a gift.
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Emotional: a word used often nowadays to insult someone for their sensitivity towards a multitude of things.

If you cry happy tears, you're emotional. If you express (even if it's in a healthy way) that something is bothering you, you're sensitive. If your hormones are in a funk and you just happen to be sad one day, you're emotional AND sensitive.

Let me tell you something that goes against everything people have probably ever told you. Being emotional and being sensitive are very, very good things. It's a gift. Your ability to empathize, sympathize, and sensitize yourself to your own situation and to others' situations is a true gift that many people don't possess, therefore many people do not understand.

Never let someone's negativity toward this gift of yours get you down. We are all guilty of bashing something that is unfamiliar to us: something that is different. But take pride in knowing God granted this special gift to you because He believes you will use it to make a difference someday, somehow.

This gift of yours was meant to be utilized. It would not be a part of you if you were not meant to use it. Because of this gift, you will change someone's life someday. You might be the only person that takes a little extra time to listen to someone's struggle when the rest of the world turns their backs.

In a world where a six-figure income is a significant determinant in the career someone pursues, you might be one of the few who decides to donate your time for no income at all. You might be the first friend someone thinks to call when they get good news, simply because they know you will be happy for them. You might be an incredible mother who takes too much time to nurture and raise beautiful children who will one day change the world.

To feel everything with every single part of your being is a truly wonderful thing. You love harder. You smile bigger. You feel more. What a beautiful thing! Could you imagine being the opposite of these things? Insensitive and emotionless?? Both are unhealthy, both aren't nearly as satisfying, and neither will get you anywhere worth going in life.

Imagine how much richer your life is because you love other's so hard. It might mean more heartache, but the reward is always worth the risk. Imagine how much richer your life is because you are overly appreciative of the beauty a simple sunset brings. Imagine how much richer your life is because you can be moved to tears by the lessons of someone else's story.

Embrace every part of who you are and be just that 100%. There will be people who criticize you for the size of your heart. Feel sorry for them. There are people who are dishonest. There are people who are manipulative. There are people who are downright malicious. And the one thing people say to put you down is "you feel too much." Hmm...

Sounds like more of a compliment to me. Just sayin'.

Cover Image Credit: We Heart It

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Andy Ruiz Jr. May Not Look Like The Typical Boxer, But It Doesn't Make His Victory Any Less Deserved

Andy Ruiz Jr. just proved that dreams can come true.

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On June 1, boxing fans witnessed something special as Andy 'Destroyer' Ruiz Jr. defeated Anthony Joshua via TKO after going seven rounds in the ring at Madison Square Garden in New York City to become the first ever Mexican-American heavyweight champion of the world. Ruiz Jr. (33-1) was a heavy underdog (+1100) heading into the match-up with Joshua (22-1) but ultimately flipped the script to hand the British fighter his first professional loss ever. Surely the fight will go down as one of the greatest moments in sports history.

Some members of the media and fans have been quick to label the fight as a 'fluke' and 'rigged' which in the end is no surprise to me. That always happens in the sports world. Many did not believe we would get this result yet failed to remember the one rule of sports -- expect the unexpected. Over the past week, I've been coming to the defense of Ruiz Jr. in the wake of others choosing to call him a joke.

I was shocked and surprised to hear two of my favorite sports analysts, Stephen A. Smith and Shannon Sharpe, make fun of Ruiz Jr. and frame him as just a guy that looked like 'Butterbean.' When I viewed their tweets on social media it honestly made me upset. Sure, Ruiz Jr. may not have fit the mold of what a professional boxer should look like, but they simply should not have just judged a book by its cover.

Personally, I thought it was disrespectful for Smith and Sharpe to throw shade at Ruiz Jr. in the way they did. I felt like they should have done a better job of acknowledging the winner considering the result of the match. Yet choosing to bash someone because of their physical composition appeared like a low blow. The very foundation of sports allows people of all shapes, sizes, genders, races, and backgrounds to compete -- that's why most people follow them in the first place.

Smith was open behind his reasoning for his tweets in which I'd like to shed some light on. Smith was upset about how boxing time after time contains elements of corruption with fans having to wait years until promoters schedule big fights. He along with other followers of the sport were looking forward to the highly anticipated yet potential future match-up between Joshua and fellow heavyweight Deontay Wilder. Smith believes that by Ruiz Jr. beating Joshua it essentially diminished the chances of that fight ever happening with the same amount of buildup, but that still doesn't provide any excuse for mocking the new heavyweight champ.

Ruiz Jr. was there for a reason and ultimately seized the opportunity that was right in front of him -- that's not his fault for getting the job done. Just because someone doesn't look like the part doesn't mean they don't possess the same qualities and characteristics as their counterparts. The following pair of videos display the amount of talent Ruiz Jr. does have in the ring. Even fellow boxer Canelo Alvarez and former UFC lightweight/featherweight champion Conor McGregor acknowledge that and have come out to say something on their behalf.

Unfortunately, I don't expect much to change because most will stand their ground and continue to behave the same way. All I'm saying is I did not enjoy some of the top figures within sports media stereotyping Ruiz Jr. based on his looks. I would think that we would be better than that and recognize that anyone can accomplish something great in this world. It all just starts with a simple dream.

I understand and respect other people's takes on this subject, maybe I'm looking into things deeper than what they are, but it struck a chord with me and I felt the need to say something about it.

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