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Hókonótt, Jólablót

Hókonótt and the celebration of this night, we can read about in our sagas. The etymology is not considered to be entirely certain, but we can probably conclude that this night marked the absolute end of Yule for our ancestors.

The time of this celebration is related to what we today consider as the 20th day of Yule (Tjuenddagen). The night falls in the month Landvíði - "woodland" - home to the god Viðarr (the avenger of the winter beast / wolf Fenris). The month is also called Mörsugr, Jólmánaðr (Yule month, fatmonth) in the Iron Age calendar.

Thus, Yule is definitely ending with Hókunótt. This Norse word can be translated as "the chopping night".

Hókunótt is the midwinter night. This must not be confused with Winter Solstice when "the sun is turning" and that is our original Yule night. In the same way that midsummer, the "middle of summer", is somewhat later than the summer solstice in the summer. The peak of the seasons occurs about one month after the solar days.

As the Norse name Hókonótt implies, all the food from Yule should be chopped up in a pot, and all the mead and beer should be drunk. It would be a sacrifice for peace, good winter and the coming crops. The festival was three days to their end, as the symbolism of three cycles is pervasive. On Primstaven this day is marked with an axe or a horse.

Furious pagan farmers at the Jólablót (Yule sacrifice/feast) on Mære in the mid-900s. Håkon Haraldsson Adalsteinsfostre (Håkon the Good), had many attempts to Christianize the people, following his upbringing with the Christian king Athelstan in England. The peasants wanted a king of their own, and tried to force Håkon the Good to sacrifice togehter with them, as it was expected. After the feast, the eight chieftains decided that four of them Kaar from Gryting, Asbjørn of Medalhus, Torberg of Varnes and Orm from Ljoxa would destroy Christianity, according to Håkon the Good´s saga in Snorri and Flatøybok. Painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo.

The mid-winter celebration was of great importance for our ancestors, a celebration that winter was half way through. Several sources indicate that Hókonótt was associated with the more famous Jólablót, and that this sacrifice was held later and not directly related to the winter solstice. Our ancestors followed the solar and lunar cycles, and Jólablót / “chopping night” was held by all cosmological signs at the full moon, after the first new moon, after the winter solstice.

After the forced Christianization, the Christians also included this high festival in their calendar. They called it "Brettemesse" (“folding mass”) and dedicated it to Saint Brictiva - hence "brette", meaning folding in Norwegian - and that the original pre-Christian tradition was to just “fold” all the Christmas food into a pot. This saint is unknown and there is no documented history of her alleged work. Her Christian Day of Remembrance was set for January 11, which as accurate as is possible with today's calendar gives the 20th day of Yule. After this, one had to stay indoors, not ride or use weapons. Something that was contrary to the free pagan traditions and which probably in the early middle Ages was considered a deprivation of liberty in itself. The Orthodox Church uses this original pagan day as its Christian Christmas celebration to this day.

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