In Heimskringla, Snorri provides our best documentation regarding Dísaþing, the Thing of All Swedes.
“In Svithjod it was the old custom, as long as heathenism prevailed, that the chief sacrifice took place in Goe month at Upsala. Then sacrifice was offered for peace, and victory to the king; and thither came people from all parts of Svithjod. All the Things of the Swedes, also, were held there, and markets, and meetings for buying, which continued for a week…”
You might have seen others talking about this in early February, and Snorri provides us with an explanation as to why this seems to have started.
“…after Christianity was introduced into Svithjod, the Things and fairs were held there as before. After Christianity had taken root in Svithjod, and the kings would no longer dwell in Upsala, the market-time was moved to Candlemas, and it has since continued so, and it lasts only three days.”
Even in Sweden today, the Disting (the modern name for Dísaþing) market fair is held in early February. So, why am I writing about it now, almost a month after others near you might have celebrate it, or something similar to it? The answer is two-fold. First, we are closer to the historic timeframe than using the adjusted date imposed by Christian kings. Second, it is finally starting to be consistently warmer where I live and the hint of Spring is finally here. It’s still a good bit cold in Sweden right now, of course but evidence indicates that during the Vendal and Viking periods, Scandinavia was a little warmer than it is now, meaning the thaw could well be started by now.
So, what do we know about Dísaþing? Besides being “The Social Event of the Year” for the Swedish peoples, we know that important sacrifices were made. The festival and law assembly was held in conjunction with the Dísablót, the great sacrifice to the dísir. There’s an interesting difference that crops up here between the East and West Nordic traditions. In Sweden, Dísablót is held at this time but the Icelandic sagas show us that in Iceland, Dísablót was held at the coming of winter. This variation in tradition is a fascinating one. Because of my own Swedish heritage, I make my Dísablót offerings now but those who favor the Norwegian and Icelandic customs are well and properly in their right to hold it when their customs say to.
This year I am hosting a small get together where we will be drinking toasts to the dísir. The most important toasts will be minni toasts in honor of the women of our families who have died. Because the guests that are invited are mostly not Heathen I am not hosting a formal blót. Instead, I will be making the sacrifices in private. I am doing it this way because of the kinship ties that I will be honoring. The ties of blood are, in this case, too personal for me to share with those not of my ætt.
For starting points to learn more about Dísaþing or the Thing of All Swedes, please follow the links to their Wikipedia articles. There is some good information and valuable links that I think are worth your time.
Hail the dísir! Hail the Svear! Hail Svíþjoð! Hail Sverige!