I have two kids and they are being brought up with Heathenry as an integral part of our family. They’ve been at blóts since they were in diapers and while my youngest still is a bit too young, my eldest takes an active part in many blóts and knows the words we’re using often. It probably helps that we celebrate Torshelgd every Thursday, a practice that has been an important part of our family Heathenry since before we had children, and now the children taking part is integral to the ritual. Mostly we celebrate just the four of us, but sometimes my parents or some heathen friends take part. We make sure to hold Torshelgd even when it’s hard, like when we’re in hospital (which we’ve been quite a lot) and it sets the rhythm of our lives and is a source of power and togetherness for us all.
Torshelgd is a weekly practice derived from folk traditions practiced on Thursday evenings at least until the 19th century in rural Sweden. Thursdays have been considered special, magical even, for hundreds of years in folklore; Thursday nights is the time to make pacts with Näcken or the Devil, to learn magic or become an expert fiddler, to heal and cure or to foretell the future. Of particular interest are the taboos concerning circular motions, called “kringgärningar” in Swedish. This especially applies to spinning, but could also apply to painting, making balls of yarn and even going by cart or wagon. Actually, the sheer amount of folklore in Scandinavia surrounding Thursdays is quite staggering. There’s enough for an entire post about it, or even a book, probably.
In pre-Christian times the Thing would often start on a Thursday (Jón Jóhannesson’s “A History of the Old Icelandic Commonwealth: Islendinga Saga”; mentions the Icelandic Alþing and Gulaþing in Norway, I think the Thing in Jämtland did too, but I can’t find the reference) and still today the first day of Summer is always on a Thursday in the Icelandic calendar. Trying to explain why Thor’s day, rather than Odin’s, Tyr’s, Frigga’s/Freyja’s, Sunna’s or Máni’s would be considered especially sacred or important would just be guessing, but the sources do suggest that it has been the case for a long time.
Folklorist Ebbe Schön writes in his “Asa-Tors hammare”, a book that largely deals with the Norse gods in later Swedish folklore, about how Thursdays were observed. The floor of the house needed to be swept and the rooms tidied, because Thore-gud and his wife Frigge (sic) might turn up on that night, and the taboo of circular motions were enforced. A small feast was also prepared.*
Inspired by this and by what I’d read about Samfälligheten för Nordisk Sed (SNS)**, I started observing Thursdays (quite sporadically) about 15 years ago. At first I did it by myself and it was really, really simple; reading a myth about Thor and meditating by the stalli for a little while, usually. After a couple of years a friend of mine, who had Thor as his fulltrui, put together a small blót to do on Thursdays and we started to do them regularly and invited people from our blotlag (hearth/kindred). At first it was mostly a short ritual followed by us going out for beers, but over the course of a few months it morphed into a set “liturgy” inviting Thor and Freyja***, giving them offerings and toasting and then eating a meal. For a while, before we had our first child, my wife and I would do this together with much of the blotlag every week, but eventually we couldn’t fit that work in with a baby so we started celebrating just the three of us. My lovely and talented wife wrote songs to Thor and Freyja****, replacing the texts we’d used earlier to invite them. We have continued to develop how we do Torshelgd over time, mostly to find ways to include our children. The Torshelgds celebrations I’ve attended have varied quite a lot, and while the way my family and I celebrate is fairly ceremony-heavy, I’m sure there are others that do it differently.
It’s hard to say how many Heathens observe this practice, since by it’s very nature it’s mostly a private practice of the home and family. Some members of the SNS probably celebrate Torshelgd, but they also keep themselves to themselves, and to be honest I don’t know that much about their current practices. I do know, however, that the Facebook page “Torshelgd (Thor’s Hallow)” that occasionally reminds people it’s Thursday have over 300 followers, “Väntljusstaken”, which celebrates the six Thursdays leading up to winter solstice, have over 1000 and I also see occasional references to it in other places, like the occasional blog. While most seem concentrated to Sweden, there are quite a few from other places, and it’s clear that it has spread over the last decade. There are few, if any, mentions before the mid-00s, but since the practice is well suited for the way the modern world works, it’s not unlikely it will spread more.
* Schön briefly touches upon whether this was a survival of the preparation for the Friday fast of Catholic times, but seems to lean towards this having to do with Thor: “ we shouldn’t forget that the name of the day became Thursday many hundreds of years before Christianity was ever introduced to us. We’ve had a lot longer to associate the day with Thor than with the Christian custom.”
** A Swedish Heathen organisation mostly dedicated to folkloric Heathenry.
*** Schön mentions “Frigge” in his book, and we had much discussion around whether to invite Frigga or Freyja, which in turn ties in with the whole question of whether they are one goddess or two, and that’s a discussion for another piece.