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  • Forfatterens bildeOdelsarven


Easter is close to the hearts of Norwegians. The majority of us have a relationship with the Easter Mountains, and many of us spend these holidays in the mountains skiing. We are enjoying the last of the winter. We have a near paranoid relationship with the weather, and we hope for "the Easter winter dream" that bathes in the sun. We decorate with eggs, chickens, Easter hares, and have sparkling flames in the fireplace on the family cabin. There is an expectation at Easter - when we return to civilization, winter will be over. Spring should be here! We get an "urge" inside of us, because now the garage will be cleaned, the car and the house washed down, and the spring clothes will come out.

Easter falls today after the lunar cycle, usually after our original calendar of the month Breiðablik ("shining glimpse"), and in our mythology in the home of the god / natural force Balder. The months Easter usually falls in are also in the Iron Age calendar called Einmánuðr, Krákamánaðr (Month of the Men) with the zodiac sign Hrútr (Aries), and the month Gói (Month of the Women) with the zodiac sign Fiskr (Fishes). In pre-Christian times, Easter was associated with the spring equinox and was the original Easter celebration, with the following summer days. As mentioned previously, it began with what we call “the fat days” on February 2nd and ended on February 9th, which is Ash Wednesday. Then the lent that lasted for 40 days began, and Easter morning (Austr) then fell on March 21.

The modern Norwegian word “Påske” stems from the Jewish Christian (Hebrew) word "Pasche" (of Hebrew Passover). In our original tradition, the high festival is called Austr. Before entering this important original pagan high festival, it is important to remind ourselves of what Austr is really about, and how our ancestors celebrated this important original pre-Christian festival.

Austr is a goddess (feminine force of nature) and, as the word implies, means the name east, as in the English word East (er) - Old English Ēastre, Old High German Ôstara, proto Germanic Austrō and Norse Austr. The origin is most likely of Indo-European Ausṓs. The Anglo-Saxons called the month of April Ēosturmōnaþ and High German language areas called her month for Ôstarmânoth.

Austr is a goddess of spring (spring and summer birth), and represents the mythological feminine half of Balder. He personifies life, light, sun and summer. The sun rises in the east. Today, Austr always falls on the first Sunnudagr (Sunday / Balders day) after the first full moon after Vârjafndøgri (spring equinox).

The Goddess Austr.

It is again necessary to reiterate that in our original tradition we cultivated ancestors and kin. We named our children by the name of our honorable ancestors who had lived before us. It was believed that the ancestral spirit and good qualities of the ancestors were reincarnated in the child by calling the name of the dead ancestor up again in a child. This custom still lives, but more like a tradition, without the same spiritual foundation as before. The lent itself of 40 days is thus equivalent to a symbolic 40-week pregnancy in length. The lent is thus originally a symbolic “waiting time”, a time one waits for ancestors to enter the children's spirit.

Practically and historically, children in ancient times were more prone to child mortality and were completely dependent on their mothers. They were still in a weaning period and they were not considered individuals and did not have official names yet. They were not sexually mature (sexless) and were practically regarded as "the second phase of pregnancy". They were considered to be in the "middle phase" and messengers of ancestors. They became individuals only after 7 years (loss of teeth) and the symbolic rebirth of selected ancestors.

Austr is therefore also symbolic rebirth of ancestors after the previous cycle of 40 weeks, which fell on the summer solstice. Throughout the year such symbolic rebirth occurs three times in our tradition, and not surprisingly, Austr (Easter) is the first, Sumarsôlhvarf (summer solstice) the second, and Vetrasólhvarf (Jól) the third - our three main high festivals. This is also the reason why all the processes of our fairytales are repeated three times - all of which are symbols of spiritual attainment and rebirth, with honor, in line with our seasons, and nature’s own cycle. Not surprisingly, there are also precisely three stages of a pregnancy.

Austr is, like the other of our still intact holidays, filled with pagan symbolism. The Passover lamb symbolizes the child, who is completely dependent on his mother. The lamb is captured by the shepherd, and this represents the ancestor. The Passover lamb and the shepherd (the wanderer) with the walking stick is not a Christian symbol, but is a pagan one, and far older than any "testament". Odin (the spirit, your accumulated ancestors) is referred to as, and has its act of being the wanderer. He is in fact a spiritual shepherd. Odin's kenning (mask) in our mythology as Hárbarðr serves as one example of this. Rígþula is another.

Eggs and Easter bunnies (hares) are symbols of the coming period and pregnancy that end in childbirth on the coming of the three cycles, and in this case, when the sun turns at Yule. The Easter egg is therefore symbolically shaped / decorated, "fertilized" and hidden during Easter. Austr is a symbol of nature's "fertilization" at all levels. Therefore, our traditions are also such that it was the women who would paint the Easter eggs, ie their own eggs in symbolic meaning. These eggs were hung in trees, just as the eggs hanging in the womb (Yggdrasil). The children go on an "egg hunt", just like the hunt for the egg in the womb. Still, in some places the custom is that the boys could hatch / eat the egg the nearest girl had - especially similar to sperm and eggs that fuse - again in symbolic sense. Eating eggs, hatching Easter eggs with hare-shaped contents is just a symbol of all this - a symbol of all nature's fertilization and conception, after the winter hibernation.

Easter Egg Hunt, by Ronald Bayens.

The hares in nature give birth in a hole in the ground, just as the bear gives birth in a cave, much like our tradition with the pagan rebirth rituals in the burial mounds. These burial rituals imitate the same. Similarly, the cubs of the hares are not taken out of the hole for a long time. This correlates with the view of "two births", first out of the mother's life - and then hidden and weaned. Not surprisingly, the hare has a pregnancy of exactly 40 days, and reproduction starts in February. The hare only weans once a day, after sunset, which is also related to the lent itself. This is why one of the most important symbols of the Easter celebration is precisely the hare.

A custom farther south in Europe is to collect the morning dew on Easter morning. This symbolizes waiting for the birth of nature by receiving the water. In this case, the morning dew represents the amniotic fluid before a descent, just like Yggdrasil (the tree of life) and its white dew that falls in all valleys. Austr with its time represents in itself that the birth comes from the earth, which is why Austr is a spring festival.

“The witches” can also be outside at this time, as at all the other symbolic waiting and transition periods in our original tradition. The witches are a personification of the process itself and the wait. What is kept hidden, that you cannot yet see, the very birth of ancestors in a child. They are guardians of ancestors, their spirits. Just like the tales of Tornerose, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and all the others, where in the fairytales they most often play the role of witches, evil stepmothers, dragons, bears or wolves. Before Austr, which is the Easter morning itself, the following days in what we today call Easter week are celebrated:

Hvîtasunnudagr (Palmesøndag)




Skîraþôrsdag (Skjærtorsdag)

Langfreyjudagr (Langfredag)

Skítínlaugardagr (Påskeaften)

From the Norwegian Folk Memory Associations cronicles from 1950, we can read about these days in the high festival from Vang, Valdres in Norway;

"Dagane i påskeveka hadde i gamal tid andre namn enn sume har no. Ho mor og godmor på Strønd tala um tippetysdan, øskeonsdan attåt skjirtosdan og langefredan. I fasteveka skulde dei ikkje gjera noko som gjekk rundt, soleis ikkje spinne og baka. Langfredag var det um å gjera å koma upp or sengi fyrst og gjeva dei andre i huset langefredagshøgg. Med ei mjuk risbuske banka dei over sengekledi åt dei som låg... Kunde dei påskemorgonen vera so tidleg uppe at dei kom seg upp før soli rann, skulde de få sjå soledanse... Tredjedag-påske, ja, alle tredjedagar, var det helg i gamal tid."

"The days of Easter week had in the old days other names than today. The mother and godmother at Strønd spoke of tippetysdan, øskeonsdan, skjirtosdan and langefredan. In the week of lent, they would not do anything that went around, such as spinning or baking. On Langfredag you had to get out of bed early and give the others in the house Langefredagshøgg. They stroke the bed sheets of those still sleeping with birch… If you could get up so early on Easter morning that you could see the sunrise, they said that you would see the dance of the sun… The third day of Easter, yes, all third days were sacred in old times.”

These days marked the introduction to Austr (spring and summer birth), which mythologically and symbolically is Balder and Nanna's return from Hel. That is, the return of the sun and the summer's arrival. In mythology, naturally, the sun / light (Balder) and summer (Nanna) are married.

Hvîtasunnudagr (Sunday/Sól/Sun/Balders day):

The same rituals are performed on this day, as during Fastelavn. A cleansing was done with birch, to transfer the strength of nature to humans. The Christians renamed this day to "Palm Sunday," after the desert story of Jesus entering Jerusalem the Sunday before the crucifixion. The birch was turned into palm trees. Balder and the sun were turned into Jesus.

Hvîtadrôttínadagr (Monday/Mání (the moon):

This day was used for the preparation of meat, eggs and baking for Bruðlaup (wedding). Weddings were held with sports competitions during the major high festivals. Everyone dressed in white, and girls / women adorned with ribbons and flower garlands. The couples, who were to get married, as well as May King and May Queen (the tribal sitting chief and wife) were drawn in carts around the farms, receiving food donations from everyone. These donations can be considered a collective buffet, which the tribe members shared during the feast. This practice can be recognized in pagan tradition throughout pagan Europe. These married couples symbolize Frøy and Frøya.

Hvîtatysdagr (Tuesday/Ty´s day – battle, justice):

On this day, Bruðlaup (competitions) would be arranged for the candidates for the next year's challengers to the chieftain / king and queen, and to be chosen by the tribe on the Ting. The women voted for who was most beautiful (note: the Norse word "beautiful" means healthy, strong and whole). The winner received an apple. We recognize this apple in our mythology, where the goddess Idunn gives the gods apples, so that they stay young, healthy and whole. When leaders are replaced with younger and better-suited challengers, the tribe would stay progressive and "forever young." Such games, competitions were typical pagan activities during the high festivals. Do we may think that our own typical Norwegian Easter ski races have deeper roots than one would think?

Öskudagr (Wednesday/ Odins day):

On this day, they took ashes in their hair and put on their darkest clothes. This day it was customary to fast from meat. It was not sung, no music played. Symbolically, this is the transition day between death and life. They symbolically imitated their dead ancestors, who stood before their spiritual rebirth in the kin.

Skîraþôrsdag (Thursday/Thors day):

This day names were given to all unnamed animals and children. The Norse "baptism", or “knesetting”, as it is really called, is what in Norse is know as to make “skiri”. The Norse word “skiri” means to cleanse - as children were given names (to make skiri - ancestral spirit), one should also clean the house for the holidays. In the old days a hammer was used when, for example, the child was to be “knesatt”. To this day, we call the day in Norwegian Skjærtorsdag (of the Norse skiri). The first holiday of the present Easter celebration, also begins with Skjærtorsdag.

Langfreyjudagr (Friday/Frøys day):

This day you should fast from all food, and you should wait - the day became long. The day imitates in many ways the spiritual battle one must go through, the battle with Gunlod etc. It is also no coincidence that Frøya / Frigg is the goddess of the day, and the others are her attributes. Frøya is also the foremost among the valkyrias - which is equivalent to the "guardians" of the ancestors and those who invite to battle.

Skítínlaugardagr (Saturday/Laugardagr/”cleaning and washing day, hermaphrodite Heimdals day):

This day everything had to be washed. Just like our ancestors did every Saturday throughout the year. “Lauge” means washing. The reason that the hermaphrodite Heimdal is symbolically represented on this day is because we are in the middle of winter and summer. We stand in between masculine and feminine forces and transitions in nature, and from winter to summer on the calendar. Just like every Saturday we are in transition to a new week. Spring and summer, the feminine side of the year, were met “skiri”, clean and beautiful, symbolically reborn with respect.

Austr (Sunday/Easter morning/Balders day):

The day is when summer returns after winter. Balder is mythologically returned from Hel. Everyone celebrated with going up early in the mountains to watch the sunrise in the east. The Norwegians' strong tradition of going to the mountains at Easter comes directly from this age-old tradition. It was common to bring / collect rocks and make wards in the mountains. This was done to symbolically help the sun rise in the highest possible sky. Eggs and meats (lamb, pork) were then also traditional foods, whose symbolism is explained earlier. The children got dried fruit in what we might call "austregg" (the Easter egg of that time). When the summer is returned, the fruit returns, so you probably ate lots of the fruit you had dried from last season.

Since Austr originally fell on March 21, this date in the old calendar was the thirteenth in Breiðablik. In this calendar, each god / goddess has the month of birth representing the thirteenth in the respective month. Thirteen is a pagan number of luck.

After Austr (Easter Morning), comes Gangadaghelgr (walking day weekend) wich is the summer day’s processions and celebration.

During this period we also find a tradition that we are also practicing to a great extent today, namely jokes on April 1st. Very few know the true background of this tradition. On the morning of April 1, we will be presented with shocking fake news or other planned and thoughtful tricks. Often we attach patches on the backs of each other, without the notice if you fall “victim” to the trick. The symbol this day is a fish, and the patches often also have fish symbols to this day. This symbol and the "shocking news" are at the heart of this tradition.

As mentioned earlier, Austr originally fell around March 21, and this time symbolizes the spring day, the very fertilization of the egg in the symbolic pregnancy that gives symbolic birth on the Winter Solstice - exactly 9 months later.

Therefore, April 1 is 10 days after the symbolic conception (Austr) on March 21. The fish symbol is related to the developing fetus in water (amniotic fluid). Symbolically, this means that the earliest embryo (fish) is “hoocked” and attached to the uterus. Just as one “hooks” his “victim” with a joke and a trick, but is himself caught and revealed too. The woman is exactly pregnant at this time. It is not an unknown phenomenon that women can sense at this time [1] that they are pregnant. There is something subtile about it, but still concrete. Maybe it's not so mysterious that Loke, the one who swims in the salmon shape, gets caught and hooked by Thor in the myths?

April 1. poster.

When you see what kind of Easter celebrations our ancestors had, and what traditions we still have today, one cannot conclude other than that Easter also has nothing to do with Christianity. What the Christians renamed to “Palm Sunday”, “Pentecost”, “Påske” etc. - are the days and traditions we have had for thousands of years before this monotheistic, linear and foreign religion arose about 2000 years ago. The birch is not palm trees, the long Friday is not Jesus who suffered a cross, and Easter morning is not the resurrection of Jesus. Not even Lent has any genuine Abrahamic origin. Easter time, content and symbolism are completely nature-based and pagan.

Austr is our Norse Easter. A life-affirming and deep celebration of spring and re-birth is finally here.


[1] There is reason to believe that such sensations made a stronger impact on all women in earlier times, where our bodies and our minds were not exposed to noise, stress, light pollution, and an artificial society, in the same way as of today. We must remember that our ancestors were connected to the processes of nature in a completely different way than we are today.

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