In general, one will find writings such as this, excerpted from the 2012 Troth Almanac, pg. 11 and written by Patricia Layfayllve¹:
The Anglo-Saxons termed January Æfter Geola, “after Yule,” which certainly describes the month’s placement in the Northern European calendar. Both the Old Icelandic and the Old Norse named this month Mörsugur (“suet-sucker” or “fat sucker” month) and also divided in two. The first part of January was also called Jól (“Yule”), which might be a remnant of the Yule celebrations having been in January. The latter half of the month was called Þorri, most likely recognizing Þorrablót. In Old High German January was called Harti-mánód, roughly “month of severe frost.”
Thorrablót as a tradition has survived into the modern era. Some modern heathens use this festival as a blót to Thor himself. Thorrablót was typically held in Iceland after the thirteenth week of winter, and was a festival featuring a feast followed by songs and games. Given its timing, much of the food traditionally presented at Thorrablót--hakarl (putrified shark), blóðmör ( blood sausage or black pudding), hrútspungr (ram’s scrotum with testicles), and svið (jellied sheep’s head)—were what was left of winter’s stores. Most were pickled or fermented in some way, and were subsistence foods. A traditional heathen may also want to guard against the guests’ breath after such a meal.
From what I have found, this is in general true and very good information. It isn’t a past festival however, Thorrablót is still celebrated in Iceland and Norway. It is traditionally held the first Friday after January 19th , this year starting the 20th. The celebration lasts through the first two weeks of February in restaurants and common areas. Traditional fare is served along with special, fresher preparations for the more timid gastronomiques.
What caught my eye was the constant swerving around or authorial avoidance of what Thorrablót actually meant. This feast is mentioned in the lore and I’ll go ahead and tell it’s story here from the appendices of the Icelandic Saga, Vol. III by G. Dasent. ²
Thorrablót, contrary to popular opinion and usage, is not a blót to Thor. It is a blót to Thorri, otherwise known as King Snow or Thorri Snaerson (Snow-son). Thorri’s lineage is mentioned in this way. There was a man named Fornjot who had three sons. They were Hler, Logi, and Kari. Yes, we are talking the giants Hler of the seas (Aegir), Logi of fire, and Kari who rules over the winds. Kari was the father of Jökull whose name means frost or glacier. Jökull, in turn, sired Thorri. The Orkneyingers’ Saga of the same book adds in one more step- Jökull having sired Snær (Old King Snow) who then sired Thorri.
Thorri ruled over Gothland, Kvenland, and Finland. Gothland is the southern portion of Sweden from which the Goths originated. Finland is oft known as the land of trolls and magic. Of interest, Kvenland is thought to have been around the northern edge of the Gulf of Bothnia in the Baltic Sea, directly between Finland and Sweden.
Thorri had a daughter Goi (thin-snow) and two sons named Norr and Gorr. Notation is made that Goi was kidnapped and married to a giant named Rolf the Hill. Norr found and invited his sister back home. Rolf followed and became one of Thorri’s men.
The appendix notes a holy day that I have to believe is the progenitor of our modern Thorrablót. The translation linked below reads, “To him (Thorri) the Kvens sacrificed that it might be snowy, and that there might be good going on snow-shoon. That was their harvest. That sacrifice was to be at midwinter; and the month Thorri was called after it.”
This sacrifice is also noted in the Orkneyingers’ Saga in the same book. ³ The difference here is that this text notes Thorri as making the offering.
Now, I’ll admit it is also possible Thorri was a man. I don’t recall seeing it common practice in lore for men to sacrifice to another man but who knows. These are ancient stories handed down and changes over time are natural.. The lineage of Thorri is telling though. With Kari, Logi, and Aeger in his line I’m pointed at the thought Thorri may very well have been a giant.
So with this information readily available one can wonder why modern man has either simply called it a feast day without any reference to Thorri or changed it to a blót to Thor. One thought is that the name of Thorri is similar to Thor and let’s face it, Thor is an awesome God. Why not have one more opportunity to honor Him?
Let’s look at this more closely though. Thor is important in that He helps keep elemental forces in harmony. However, modern man goes beyond this. We don’t really live in harmony with the elements. We want them under control. We want them vanquished. We want to live in our nice 70 degree all year round air conditioned home without any issues with the snow or sleet or winter, the heat of summer, the mud of spring, or the winds of fall. We have forgotten that without the snows, the storms, the heat, and the winds, we lose our natural cycle. It’s as vital to the life of the Earth as our own heartbeat. We NEED these elements. We can blót to Thor all we want but in His wisdom He just isn’t going to go and destroy every Jotnar around. We need to learn to live and work with the elements again and Thorrablót is a wonderful time to start.
Most heathens will admit that the giants (Jotnar) were likely the elemental Gods honored prior to the Aesir or the Vanir. Yet again and again we find it a modern tradition to overlook our forebears practice of honoring the Jotnar. True, there is little record of this practice but I find that plausible- the lore was initially formed through gnosis after the Aesir had already arrived.
It makes the highest sense though. Primitive cultures honored the elements they had to deal with. I feel no shame that my forebears honored giants before they honored Aesir or Vanir. Why should any of us? Why deny such a beautiful heritage- that of honoring the seasons, honoring the snow itself if one lives in a region by which it must be dealt with so intimately and personally? Without snow there would be no life; we’ve all heard of global warming.
So this season, if you choose to have a Thorrablót you most definitely have choices. You can continue the more modern tradition of honoring Thor- a worthy and wonderful God who will protect and guide us through the roughest of seasons. You can also raise a glass to Thorri Snow-son and ask for safe going on snow-shoon. I see no contradiction there. I’d lay money it’s been a while since anyone offered Thorri a beer- he may take notice and you may just find better winter traction in your driving this winter season. Whatever you do, enjoy your blóðmör and hakarl. Stay warm, safe, and be well.
1.The Troth. The Old Heathen’s Almanac 2012. http://www.thetroth.org.
2. Dasent, G. Appendices. Icelandic Sagas Vol. III. Retrieved from Sacred Texts, January 6, 2012. http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/ice/is3/is316.htm.
3. Dasent, G. The Orkneyingers’ Saga. Icelandic Sagas Vol. III. Retrieved from Sacred Texts, January 6, 2012. http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/ice/is3/is302.htm.