Hâlogiaptann – what Halloween really is
Halloween celebrations have resumed in Norway, to the annoyance and torment of many adults. We are constantly hearing that this is an imported tradition from America - of recent date. In fact, the night of November 1 is one of the oldest pagan traditions we have, and that night has been marked by our ancestors for probably tens of thousands of years. It was a festival for our dead ancestors.
Today, the commercial tradition of a "hyper-Americanized" and downgraded version of the original has gained a foothold in Norway and Scandinavia. Unfortunately, this tradition today is limited to lavish action in stores and begging for sweets. It can be said that very few know the original traditions of this evening, what it meant and what it leads to. The opinions are many, and today there are groups that boycott the Halloween celebration, and want the good old-fashioned Jólabukk back. In many ways, Halloween has replaced traditions with Jólabukk, and it has in many ways become a kind of "soulless consumer hybrid" of the two traditions. It can be argued that neither advocates of Halloween nor Jólabukk in general seem to know these two traditions, the symbolism that lies within them, nor how they are actually related.
Halloween, which our ancestors probably in pagan time called Hâlogiaptann, falls in the month of Valaskjálf - home to the god Vali (Våle) (the chosen / fallen). The month of the Iron Age calendar was called Ýlir, Frermánuður (Frost month). The new Norse pagan year, therefore, begins with Halloween. The more famous Alfablot (ancestral sacrifice) was most likely the Iron Age designation for this holiday. The first month of the year, it is the time when everything dies - and then will be reborn. This is logical, all the while our ancestors at all levels followed nature. Halloween is exactly 6 months after what our pagan ancestors called "Maidagen" (The May Day), which here in the Nordic countries was marked with Valbjörgsnâtt (Walpurgis Night). This was the night that started the summer. Similarly, Halloween is the night that began winter. Now everything was harvested, the soil was put to rest, fruits and berries were gone, the trees bear of leaves and the night frost set in.
It is from the pagan Celts we have the best sources of this tradition, and on the Isle of Man, the first day of the year has been considered November 1 - right up to the present time.
Valaskjálfr means "dying / trembling," and connects to the tree of life / nature - Yggdrasil. The god Vali (Våle) means "the elect", "the right of the strongest" and connects to the one who is spiritually reborn. In our mythology he is the son of Rindr (winter), which is another name for Odin (thought, spirit, inspiration). Vali is also equivalent to the god Vidar, as Vali is a personification of the very "selection" that he, one night old, revenges and kills Hod (Balder / the sun / light / summer's killer). Vidar is the revenge, the god of the forest / winter, he is Odin's son. Vali is thus a symbol of one who is reborn, in the reincarnation of the spirit - personalized as Odin, reborn as his son Vidar. Vali avenges mythological by killing Hod, Vidar avenges mythological by killing Fenris. Both Hod and Fenris are personifications of the winter.
Vidar steps in Fenris mouth, and kills the wolf. By W. G. Collingwood, 1908.
“Was of the injury,
that hit him mildly,
Hodr was shooting.
was born ere long,
and one night old
fought Odin's son”
"Then comes the high
Vidarr to slay
In Hvedrungs son
his sword pierced
to the heart;
avenged was his father"
Halloween thus marks the beginning of the year, and inaugurates our entire Norse Yule ritual. The sources of this tradition are, as previously mentioned, best documented among the pagan Celts, but were by all indications marked in the same way here in Scandinavia. The same natural processes, the same mythology and the same view of life were practiced in the Bronze Age and earlier, both in Scandinavia and on the islands in the west.
On Halloween, the bear enters its winter layer/cave, closing it permanently for the winter in the northern hemisphere. This happens on the day our ancestors called Björnakveldr (Bear Night), nine days after Halloween. This day is also marked on Primstaven, and has been termed as this up to recent times. The day is marked with a pig, a goose or a drinking horn. This was a Norse celebration, and it was common to celebrate now, before Yule. Both with regard to what actually symbolically happened that day, and that traditionally one should "feast for one's ancestors".
This evening is also related to the mythological and personified witches. They are symbols of the guardians of the spirits of our ancestors, what exists but cannot be seen. They have the same symbolic role as Gunnlod, the dragons and the Valkyries, as mentioned earlier. They are "spiritual midwives".
"A visit to the witch" by Edward Frederick Brewtnall 1882.
In the natural cycle, the she-Bear is impregnated around the summer solstice. She gives birth to the bear cubs on the winter solstice, which is the actual Norse Yule night. According to natural science, the she-Bear can select her embryos, which of them who will be born and grow up - before they are physically born. She can also retain unborn embryos in the womb and give birth in a second round. Our ancestors followed the cycle of nature and the bear, and we have probably done so ever since the Stone Age.
In the same symbolic sense, the families of our ancestors had one or more burial mounds in which their ancestors heaped. In mythology, such burial mounds and cult sites are referred to as the "Helgafjellet" (sacred mountain), also called "Hindarfjell" (of hind / deer, which has strong symbolism of ancestral cult and "struggle" / initiation).
During the Halloween rituals, children who were aged to loss of “milk teeth” would be “inaugurated”. Our ancestors considered the loss of teeth as an entry into the ancestral spirit. By this is meant that the child, named after an ancestor, symbolically receives the ancestors spirit when the teeth is lost. Therefore, it was also the case that the rebirth rituals were only performed once the child had reached this age. Such inauguration rituals appear to have been marked during the most important high festivals - by seasonal changes around the sun and the moon cycle. The loss of milk teeth was somewhat symbolic of this process, and by nature this indicates that the weaning period is definitely over. The child enters into the ranks of adults, and develops personality. Initiation rituals during the loss of teeth are also known in other pagan cultures.
We still have a well-known tradition when we lose our “baby teeth”. Today, the child puts the teeth in a glass, bowl, bag or the like overnight. It is said that the tooth fairy is coming, leaving coins in exchange for the teeth. This tradition is also ancient pagan. To receive gifts for teeth and growth of adult teeth, we can also read about in Grímnesmál. The tooth fairy itself is officially stated to be the term for the gift (the object) itself, but the symbolism here may well go deeper.
«Ydalir is the place
where Ull ancient
buildt his halls,
Alvheim Frøy got
in times of origin
from all Æsir as a thooth fairy”
A fairy  is symbolically a dead ancestor's spirit in our mythology. In Grímnesmál we can read that Frøy got Alvheim as a tooth fairy. In our mythology, Frøy is of the Vanir, which personifies the spirits of our ancestors, the purest and noblest of them. Frøy is the force in our mythology that connects to ancestors, kin, allodial heritage, blood, soil and fertility. Alvheim is the spiritual state in which elves (alf/alv) in our mythology personify the ancestral spirits, and Heim personifies and is another word for state/realm.
Coins (silver or gold) reflect light, and in the Norse tradition this was also a symbol of ancestry. Gold and silver are time-resistant, something these metals are a symbol of. This fairy can also be seen as a kind of "guardian angel " waiting to be reborn in the child, as its ancestral spirit. Children, who did not lose teeth or underwent the rituals, often did not yet have a real name. They usually had nicknames. At least they did not have their ancestor name formally or officially. One was not yet considered "adult» or "reborn" spiritually, if you will. In this sense, this is also logical when we look at pagan "baptism". This was called “knesetting”, and worked so that the child was put on his father's knee so that he could confirm paternity. In other words, “knesetting” was not a "baptism" in the sense that the child was given his official name.
Thus, it was a motivation for our ancestors, to lead as honorable a life as possible, to be "chosen" (Vali) and reborn as the children of their descendants, and spiritually "reincarnated" into the kin. This is an essential and fundamental part of our ancestral cult.
Herein we find the actual roots and the real reason why we still have the custom today to call our children up again by name after ancestors. This tradition remains strong in Norway. There were often more specific rules and customs on how to do this. An ancestor should have been dead for more than half the age he / she reached before the spirit was called up again. This is probably related to the fact that the spirit was considered to be "re-set" from previous physical life. In today's society, this tradition is at stake, though many still maintain it fairly with variable practices. In Norway's rural areas this is practiced to some extent to this day. Although most people know someone named after a dear ancestor, it is a pity that few know the background to the custom. The background was the cultivation of civility, honor, kin and recognition of nature's eternal physical and mental cycle. It was healthy idol worship within the family. It cultivated fierce, kind, strong, courageous and selfless archetypes.
From our own rural culture, we can find a recent practice on this. From the Norwegian Folk Memorial and the book Ættararv, we read:
"The first boy child who was born had to have the old name that followed the ancestral farm. Ideally, it was then the father of the father who was called up again. But if there was a farm girl or a soil girl (allodial heritage on the girls side) the boy married, it was her father who was called up again. The first girl child who came in a marriage was named after the mother of the father. The second girl was named after her mothers mother.
Then, they called up again their grandparents and their great grandparents in the same order. They would rather name siblings the same names, than to break the custom. If there were any unwanted (dishonorable) elements amongst the ancestors – they would not call them up again”.
Ritually during Halloween, the tribe's children were probably trained by a Sorceress. (The Celts called such Druids). In Norse tradition, it was the women who kept the traditions and the practice of them. This was the women's domain. It was probably not without reason that there were most women who were burned alive on the stakes during the so-called "witch Sabbaths" of the middle Ages. The sources we have (from the Iron Age) tell us that Sorcerers were in many ways regarded as women. They were regarded as spiritual beings, more than others. A Sorceress (or man) was a person who was knowledgeable in the teachings of tradition, gods and nature. It is also not without reason that the witches in our tradition are those who guard over ancestors, and those who must be overcome and represent the spiritual "struggle". In such cases, one can also claim that the Sorceress takes on the witch's role. Similar to burial rites at other festivals of the year, the indices are strong that this particular ritual took place inside and around the burial mounds.
The bear closes the cave/winter layer on the bear night, and there is no reason not to believe that the Sorceress with her apprentices closed the entrance, just as the bear closes the cave, at the same time. The door to summer is also closing now. You were in what you might call "the domain of death". When one opened and entered the entrance to the burial mound during such rituals, it is said that it is blown in “Bjørkeluren” (a birch horn). This represents Heimdal, and marks the transition itself - something that Heimdal above all personifies. Symbolically into death, and symbolically out from death. The Sorceress was, unsurprisingly, wearing bearskin, which, like the Druids, is described to have worn on such occasions. They could be dressed as half living, half dead (like the goddess Hel). Just like the bear can be considered half alive and half dead when it hibernates, and one stands in the middle of the transition from summer to winter.
Tradition also tells that the mistletoe was collected. There were clear rules for how the collection should take place, and in Sweden the mistletoe should be retrieved by throwing stones at it. The Druids cut it down with gold and handled it with white towels. The mistletoe is essentially symbolic in our mythology, and will be discussed in more detail later in the book. The mistletoe should be brought into the burial mound. It represents Balder - the evergreen, the life itself, the life force and the sun - therefore also rebirth.
The burial chamber inside the mound represents Valhall / Hel (Valhall is the symbolic state between life and the anticipation of rebirth (that you are chosen). Hel is the state between life and death, a dormant, empty state.
Specific initiation rituals were probably held in the burial mound (which also represents "the womb of the mother"). The time was used for dedication to nature and traditional teachings, and for the children to find their "Hamjinga" (the voice of blood, memory, their "guardian angel" (ancestors), honor and luck). These rituals probably lasted until the winter solstice (Yule night). What we today call “Advent” is related to this waiting time for spiritual "rebirth". A time that is otherwise also full of symbolism, colors and traces of just this. One can perhaps compare these rituals with a "confirmation", without any other specific comparison nowadays - where the Sorceress in this case had the role of a supervisor, a challenger, selector and guardian. She personifies not only the mythological Hel, but also the she-Bear, the wolf, the dragon, the witch, the Valkyrie, the goddess, the winter, and the "struggle" for spiritual attainment. In Icelandic, Hamjinga still means "luck". The Norse meaning is somewhat more comprehensive, where both luck and honor lie in the concept.
The tribe put food and drinks outside the burial mound during these rituals, just as it was the tradition to collect collective food and drink ahead of the rites. This was most often porridge, which was an important part of the diet. This probably contains the actual roots of our tradition of exposing porridge to “Fjøsnissen” (the small Yule person with an ancestor head) on the barn. A typical Norwegian custom still practiced to this day. In the middle Ages, the burial mounds were still used for this, although the pagan rituals where more or less ceased as they were before. “Fjøsnissen” did not exist in the Norse communities. There are no sources for this. It probably coincided with the superstition of Christianity's entry in the middle Ages. But, the roots are as pagan as can be.
The red "cap" may have been a symbol of a child who is not "born yet" but who is symbolically attached to the umbilical cord. The red top hat does not have this meaning today, although Christmas's typical colors are packed with such symbolism. These children were symbolically considered "unborn" as they had not yet received their rightful official name or were "spiritually" reborn as their ancestors. “Fjøsnissen” , as we know it today, does not appear to have had any other place or function in the Norse society. They are sometimes confused with our mythological dwarves, but they had symbolically other meanings and other attributes, even though they are symbolically and mythological linked to ancestors, in the form of, for example, black elves. The popular belief in the middle Ages seems to be a mixture of pagan symbolism and Christian scare propaganda - where the final impression on the surface seems like primitive superstition. The fact also here seems to be the opposite, as far as our pagan ancestors are concerned.
Classical Danish "fjøsnisse".
We still place out the porridge to this day. It is done in Advent, the period prior to the winter solstice.
Brita as Idun, by Carl Olof Larsson, 1901.
A typical little “nisse”? Brita as Idun is an interpretation that Brita is the child. Idun is the Norse Iðunn, the goddess and natural force of life and love. She is married to Brage, which is equivalent to Odin (his attributes). In our mythology, Idun has her apples that keep the gods eternally young. Her apples represent and symbolize rebirth. They represent that the old honorable ancestors are reborn in their descendants, and thus remain "eternally young".
After the Bear Night (Bjórnakveldr), the wild hunt begins . This lasts for nine nights. They took off all their clothes and hunted naked. They hung their clothes in the "sacrificial tree". This is the tree that grows on top of the burial mound or in a sacred grove. Adam of Bremen discusses this practice after his observations of the rites in Uppsala. This represents a "sacrifice of himself, to himself". One would symbolically kill the "winter spirits," that is, bears and wolves, which are symbolic winter animals, and represent winter. The wild hunt was a hardening process, something you can easily imagine. During the hunt you should not eat or drink. Those who killed wolf or bear became symbolic "berserkr " or "ulfhedin". Something we can read about several places in our mythology and saga literature. They were regarded as bold and honorable warriors. To kill a wolf or a bear, thus represented Odin / Vali / Vidar - "the revenge that takes the life of winter" - Fenris during Ragnarok, mythological.
Odins wild hunt, by August Malmström 1901.
«I know that I hung
upon a windy tree
for nine whole nights,
wounded with a spear
and given to Odin,
myself to myself for me;
on that tree
I knew nothing
of what kind of roots it came from.
Food I got not
nor drink from the horn,
I fell down below,
I took up the runes,
screaming I took them,
and I fell back from there»
After nine nights, the clothes were taken down from the sacrificial tree over the burial mound, if we believe Hávamál. The winter spirits were symbolically killed, Balder / the sun / light and summer are avenged, and you were yourself symbolically reborn, for a new year. During the high festivals, our ancestors imitated their own myths and stories, in rites and plays.
Large bursting bonfires were lit on Halloween night, with offerings such as hey from this year's crops, apples and other symbolic things. These bonfire traditions are documented right up to our time. The pagan and symbolic bonfire traditions can be documented on winter solstice, Easter (Austr), Valborgsnatt (the Mayday celebrations), summer solstice, autumn equinox and Halloween. The offerings for these bonfires were collected by young people and by children. They went from farm to farm and collected this. All the clues indicate that these are the real roots of "treat or tricks".
The symbolism of the number nine is found in several places. Odin's hanging in the tree is full of such symbolism. A pregnancy lasts for nine months. The tree of life can also be related to the placenta. If you study it, it looks identical to a tree with roots. It is not uncommon for midwives to still call it the "tree of life" to this day. The embryo (shell / clothing / physical body) hangs in the tree. It is “wounded by spear" (umbilical cord). No physical food and drink gets it. It grows and "takes up runes" (primordial instincts / blood memory). After nine months, it falls down, screaming - a rebirth. That's how our ancestors probably saw this. The verse in Hávamál talks about natural processes, with symbolic transfer value on many levels - according to nature's own patterns.
During Halloween and until the winter solstice, the children were dressed in masks and clothing representing "the dead" or spirits. The costumes were often in the form of birds, with wings, or other masks related to ancestors. The birds represent messengers, "angels", light elves / ancestors - until the children were symbolically "reborn," and given their rightful name, they were considered just "messengers" of ancestors. They had not yet got their spirit. We recognize this view from several ancient cultures. The ancient sphinxes of Egypt, with birds and bee patterns, contain the same symbolism.
If one look at the oldest European ancient tombs, ever since the Stone Age and the Neanderthal era - one took the skull and thigh bone of the ancestor that was to be reborn. The skull represents the metaphysical, and the femur represents the physical. You cannot think without a head, and you cannot move without a thigh - symbols of the life force itself. This was taken from the burial mound. Many ancient tombs contain the remains where these have been removed. Likewise, in several places we can read theories of Germanic tribes collecting the skulls of their enemies. This seems wrong. The skulls were most likely from ancestors, used for these rebirth rituals, and probably have nothing to do with cannibalism, revenge, power demonstrations or other atrocities, as may be indicated in sources that deal with this, and especially in popular culture.
Somewhat later, from the Iron Age, it was normal to incorporate bone tissue in the extraction of iron and steel production. This was done to harden the steel. What was better than having a sword, mixed with your idol, your "Hamjinga", your body and soul of your noble ancestor?
The present symbol of Halloween, the carved pumpkin head , probably derives exclusively from this practice of skulls and ancestral cult.
Mythological, it was precisely Odin (the spirit, the intellect) who spoke to Mimir's (memory, experience) head, to gain access to the total knowledge. He must, as is well known, pledge his own eye for this, which can be seen as the” dead” side of the spirit itself. One blind eye (death) and one intact eye (life). In other words, if one had gained insight into death and past experience, one would have gained the total knowledge.
"Plays Mims sons,
but fate awakes
from the aged
load blows Heimdallr,
the horn is raised;
grind then Ódinn
with Míms head"
Classic carved pumpkin head, lit up on the night of the dead, with the “eternal flame” inside.
In other words, the Halloween ritual was extensive, and appears to be a very important symbolic and pagan tradition. The symbolic content and rituals extend throughout the Advent period until the winter solstice (December 21-22 – the Yule night). The she-Bear in the cave gives birth at this time to her chosen bear cubs, exactly nine  months after they were conceived on summer solstice. Therefore, now the rituals in the burial mound are also over, just as the bear cubs leave "mother's life". The children are now symbolically reborn as their ancestors, have taken their names, and have undergone the initiation ritual . Their chosen ancestors were buried with all their most important possessions. The children can now legally claim these assets, as they are now theirs - retrieved from Helgafjellet (burial mound). They are "reborn".
«Then may again
in the grass be found,
which in days of old
they had possessed"
The Sorceress probably collected these belongings and brought them with them when the companion left the burial mound. In the pagan tradition, processions were commonplace during the high festivals and between the seasonal changes. Just as we go into procession when we go "treat or tricks" or Jólabukk today. In pagan times, too, the children wore costumes to imitate the dead, like spirits and with masks. The Sorceress woman was now probably wearing a white suit, a robe reminiscent of a “Santa's costume”. (Heimdal was always dressed in white when he did not have someone else's shape). With this she represents the god Heimdal (who is also a hermaphrodite who represents the feminine and masculine forces in nature - summer versus winter). Heimdal is Odin's equivalence. Odin gave in the mythology Heimdal the responsibility for all important transitions (from peace to battle, from life to death, from season to season etc.). He also bears the name Rig among others.
The gods have many "masks" and kennings in mythology. They change shapes. They thus bear new names and figures, where the process or rather the symbolism and names of the tasks lie and represent in the form of the forces of nature. This may be confusing, but for a watchful eye, our ancient myths thus hold an incredible amount of knowledge. Heimdal wanders in the mythology in all worlds (states and realms), he lives at the end of the rainbow (the Bifrost brigde), watches between life and death (sees everything) and can hear the grass grow. He has his eyes everywhere. It is by no means mysterious that Heimdal is linked to Yggdrasil.
Jólabukk, from a more recent Finish Christmas card.
The Sorceress represents with this, and is the very roots of "the modern Santa". We have had this monumentally much longer than the later alleged Turkish St. Claus. The Norse Santa Claus is Heimdal. But above all, Odin himself, who in our tradition is called Jólafaðr – “Yule father” – “Father Christmas” , is represented in the form of the "transition force" Heimdal.
The Sorceress also wears a goat mask, representing Thor's two goats, Jord and Odin's son, as well as a staff of birch representing Frøya. The leader of the Jólabukk procession has at all times, and up to this day, been wearing a goat mask. The procession visits all the children's farms, where the children greet with their real name, just as we still do in rural Norway. They carry with them the mistletoe, which they have carried with them from the autumn equinox - as the key and symbol of Balder / the sun / light / life force / rebirth and life itself. This mistletoe is hung by the housewife over the door, like the last Yule ornament, and a symbol of the circle being closed. Herein lays the tradition of decorating and kissing under the mistletoe for Christmas. It is even said that the mistletoe cannot be hung up until the actual Yule night (the solstice). Many still kiss under it.
The Sorceress (representing the hermaphroditic force of nature - Heimdal, the actual Santa Claus) gives the gifts (ancestral possessions) to the child (the symbolic rebirth) on Yule night - winter solstice. The Yule tides fantastic pagan symbolism, which we still have completely intact today, will be discussed in more detail later in articles.
We can read in many sources that the burial mounds were looted for valuables, as many believe. On a general basis, this seems wrong. It cannot be said that it never occurred, but it seems to have happened mainly after our ancestors were forcibly subjected to Christianity, and the pagan sanctuaries were violated. Our ancestral possessions were allodial heritage in pagan times - so, in these traditions lies, among other things, Norway's still strong allodial heritage law and inheritance rights. Herein lays our tradition with both Santa Claus and Christmas presents. The procession is the whole basis of our Jólabukk. The accounts of Åsgårdsreia  during Christianity in the middle Ages may also have originated around this. The most likely explanation for the latter seems to have been the pagan "New Year's celebration" between the solstice and Eldbjörgdagr (“fire rescue day”). We will also have to return to that later on in the book.
Today, many men mark the so-called "movember", in which in sympathy for the cancer case let the mustache grow from November 1 and one month ahead. As a curiosity, it can be mentioned that our ancestors had a tradition that the beard should grow from Halloween until Yule (or rather the new year) - until after the sun had turned, and everything was born again.
Halloween is originally a feast for our ancestors, for home, family, blood and soil. It was a dedication to our children - to nature itself and life. It was a celebration of honorable rebirth and heritage in the lineage and kin - nature's eternal cycle. For something to be born, the realm of death had to be visited, ancient knowledge acquired, the gods and myths imitated. The celebration is probably several tens of thousands of years old.
This original important and symbolic high festival, the very beginning and introduction to the Yule tide, ended completely differently after the forced Christianization, and unfortunately disappeared in its original form . The church re-named the day to all saints day / all souls day. The Latin name became Festum Omnium Sanctorum and was dedicated to all the martyrs of the church "whose name is not known". The day was also set for the start of the Reformation, which in its pure form was a Christian escalation of the Inquisition of European pagan traditions in the late middle Ages.