Halloween atmosphere is all around. Many of the Viking enthusiasts might wonder if there was any kind of Halloween celebration in the Viking age. The answer, in fact, depends on how one defines “Halloween”. If Halloween to your understanding is a celebration to wear scary costume and play the “Trick or Treat”, then the Vikings didn’t have anything like that. But if you define “Halloween” as the day of sacrifice to the dead and to remember the dead, then we have the Viking Halloween.
The Viking Halloween is the Álfablót
The Alfablot was a kind of sacrifice to the elves. In the belief of the Vikings, the elves were not the ones who played harps and wore beautiful clothes. Rather, they were the souls of the dead and they were still somewhere out there wandering and communicating. They were not evil but they were simply not to help the living unless the living asked them to do so.
The witness of Alfablot
The fact was that the Vikings kept the ritual of Alfablot secret. No intruders could enter the holy place when the family was carrying out the ritual. In the middle of 1018, Sigvatr Þórðarson a Norwegian skald tried to enter a village only to be refused entry by some women of the families. The woman said that because of the Alfablot the sacrifice for the elves, no one outside could enter their homes.
Then Sigvatr and his men tried to enter some other house. But all they got back were the refusals. Then they traveled at a Hof “Temple” and wished to receive some hospitality. But the result remained the same and the door to the temple was even shut. Sigvatr tried to introduce himself to gain some shelter for the night. But the men inside said that they were not allowed to stay there because the place was sacred. Then Sigvatr met a woman who later told him to stay away and “Don’t go further inside. For we are afraid of Odin’s wrath. We are pagans.”. Then off he went to another village only to be refused again by a man who called himself “the guardian of the pickaxe”. They thought the man to be the kindest and most hospitable but it turned out to be not. The man scolded them off and talked the ritual was being carried out.
So as far as we can see from the account by Sigvatr, the ritual of Alfablot was a secret. Any outsider could not enter the holy place. In other words, the ritual was so important that people of the time put aside the hospitality.
Who the Alfablot was dedicated for?
As mentioned, the Alfablot was a traditional ritual that was for the dead. In the belief of the Vikings, the dead somehow still remained in the living world under the form of the spirit or soul. But they would call them the elves who lived under the land.
The elves lived in the land we call Alfheim. And the ruler of Alfheim was Freyr God of Sunshine and Summer. Thereby, the scholars believed that the Alfblot was a time for the Vikings to worship God Freyr as well. In fact, Freyr was the god of fertility. So the Vikings were more likely to have worshipped Freyr to wish for a fruitful harvest.