Literary quotations (emphasis mine):
Austrfararvisur St. 4-5
Réðk til Hofs at hœfa;/ hurð vas aptr, en ek spurðumk/ (inn settak nef nenninn)/ niðrlútr fyrir útan;/ orð gatk fæst af fyrðum,/ (flǫgð baðk) en þau sǫgðu,/ hnekðumk heiðnir rekkar,/ heilagt (við þau deila).
Gakkat inn, kvað ekkja,/ armi drengr, en lengra;/ hræðumk ek við Óðins/ (erum heiðin vér) reiði;/ rýgr kvazk inni eiga/ óþekk sús mér hnekði/ alfa blót sem ulfi/ ótvín í bœ sínum.
To Hof I struck the path./ The door was shut. Outside/ I had to ask. I bent down,/ Poked my nose in to see./ Not much I learned from that household./ They said, “Today is holy.”/ Heathen bullies threw me out./ To Hell with them, say I!
“No farther can you enter,/ You wretch!” said the woman./ “Here we are heathens/ And I fear the wrath of Odin.”/ She shoved me out like a wolf,/ That arrogant termagant,/ Said she was holding sacrifice/ To elves there in her house. (Page translation, http://vikingraiders.yolasite.com/resources/Austrfaravisur.pdf)
Egils saga Skalla-Grimssonar Ch. 44
Eiríkur konungur og Gunnhildur komu það sama kveld í Atley, og hafði Bárður þar búið veislu móti honum, og skyldi þar vera dísablót, og var þar veisla hin besta og drykkja mikil inni í stofunni.
King Eric and queen Gunnhilda came that same evening to Atla-isle, and Bard had prepared there a banquet for the king; and there was to be there a sacrifice to the guardian spirits. Sumptuous was the banquet, and great the drinking within the hall. (Green translation, http://www.sagadb.org/egils_saga.en)
(The account continues for many more paragraphs with much drinking and recitation of poetry.)
Eyrbyggja saga Ch. 43
Það var siður Breiðvíkinga um haustum að þeir höfðu knattleika um veturnáttaskeið undir Öxlinni suður frá Knerri. Þar heita síðan Leikskálavellir, og sóttu menn þangað um alla sveitina. Voru þar gervir leikskálar miklir. Vistuðust menn þangað og sátu þar hálfan mánuð eða lengur.
Now it was the wont of the Broadwickers in autumn, about the time of winter-nights, to have ball-play under the shoulder south of Cnear, and the place thereafter was called the Playhall-meads, and men betook themselves thither from all the countryside, and great play-halls were made there, wherein men abode and dwelt there a half month or more. (Morris & Magnusson translation, http://www.sagadb.org/eyrbyggja_saga.en)
Gisla saga Surssonar Ch. 9
Þorgrímur ætlaði að hafa haustboð að veturnóttum og fagna vetri og blóta Frey og býður þangað Berki bróður sínum og Eyjólfi Þórðarsyni og mörgu öðru stórmenni. Gísli býr og til veislu og býður til sín mágum sínum úr Arnarfirði og Þorkötlum tveimur og skorti eigi hálft hundrað manna að Gísla. Drykkja skyldi vera að hvorratveggja og var stráð gólf á Sæbóli af sefinu af Seftjörn.
Þá er þeir Þorgrímur bjuggust um og skyldu tjalda húsin en boðsmanna var þangað von um kveldið þá mælti Þorgrímur við Þorkel: “Vel kæmu oss nú reflarnir þeir hinu góðu er Vésteinn vildi gefa þér; þætti mér sem þar væri langt í milli hvort þú hefðir þá með öllu eða hefðir þú þá aldrei og vildi eg nú að þú létir sækja þá.”
Thorgrim meant to have a harvest feast on the first night of winter, and to sacrifice to Frey. He bids to it his brother Bork, and Eyjolf the son of Thord, and many other great men. Gisli too made ready a feast, and bids to it his brothers-in-law from Arnafirth, and the two Thorkels; so that there were full sixty men at his house. There was to be a drinking-bout at each house, and the floor at Sæbol was covered with sedge won from Sedgetarn. Now when Thorgrim and his men were busy putting up the hangings in the hall, Thorgrim all at once said to Thorkel Those hangings would come in well–those fine ones I mean–that Vestein wished to give thee; methinks there is great difference between your having them for a day or having them altogether. I wish thou wouldst send for them now.” (DaSent translation, http://www.sagadb.org/gisla_saga_surssonar.en)
Olafs saga helga Ch. 107/113
Það haust voru sögð Ólafi konungi þau tíðindi innan úr Þrándheimi að bændur hefðu þar haft veislur fjölmennar að veturnóttum. Voru þar drykkjur miklar. Var konungi svo sagt að þar væru minni öll signuð ásum að fornum sið. Það fylgdi og þeirri sögn að þar væri drepið naut og hross og roðnir stallar af blóði og framið blót og veittur sá formáli að það skyldi vera til árbótar. Það fylgdi því að öllum mönnum þótti það auðsýnt að goðin höfðu reiðst því er Háleygir höfðu horfið til kristni.
In autumn the news was brought to King Olaf that the bondes had had a great feast on the first winter-day’s eve, at which there was a numerous attendance and much drinking; and it was told the king that all the remembrance-cups to the Asas, or old gods, were blessed according to the old heathen forms; and it was added, that cattle and horses had been slain, and the altars sprinkled with their blood, and the sacrifices accompanied with the prayer that was made to obtain good seasons. It was also reported that all men saw clearly that the gods were offended at the Halogaland people turning Christian. (Laing translation, http://lind.no/nor/index.asp?lang=&emne=asatru&vis=s_e_olav_haraldsson)
Thiðranda Thattr ok Thorhalls
The entire story takes place around the time of a Winternights celebration (Veislan var búin að veturnóttum). A man named Thorhall has a premonition that someone will die that night, and he forbids people to leave the building. However, that night Thiðrandi gets up and goes outside, where he sees nine female riders in black approach from the north and nine female riders in light clothing approach from the south. The women in black attack Thiðrandi, and he dies from his wounds, though not before he can tell the people within the building what happened; after his death, he is laid in a mound according to the old custom. Thorhall expresses his belief that some of Thiðrandi’s disir have slain him rather than lose him to new customs.
Viga-Glums saga Ch. 6
Þar var veisla búin að veturnóttum og gert dísablót og allir skulu þessa minning gera. Glúmur situr í rúmi sínu og gengur eigi til.
At the commencement of winter there was a feast prepared, and a sacrifice to the gods, in which observance all were expected to take part, but Glum sat in his place and did not attend it. (Head translation, http://www.sagadb.org/viga-glums_saga.en)
Ynglinga saga Ch. 29/33
Aðils konungur var að dísablóti og reið hesti um dísarsalinn. Hesturinn drap fótum undir honum og féll og konungur af fram og kom höfuð hans á stein svo að hausinn brotnaði en heilinn lá á steininum. Það var hans bani. Hann dó að Uppsölum og er þar heygður. Kölluðu Svíar hann ríkan konung.
King Adils was at a Disa sacrifice; and as he rode around the Disa hall his horse Raven stumbled and fell, and the king was thrown forward upon his head, and his skull was split, and his brains dashed out against a stone. Adils died at Upsal, and was buried there in a mound. The Swedes called him a great king. (Laing translation, http://lind.no/nor/index.asp?lang=&emne=asatru&list=&vis=Snorre)
Bede in De Temporum Ratione (The reckoning of time):
The first month, which the Romans name January, is with them Giuli. Then follow February, Solmónaþ;March, Hrédmónaþ;April, Éosturmónaþ; May, Þrimilchi; June, Líþa; July also Líþa; August, Wéodmónaþ; September, Háligmónaþ; October,Winterfylleþ; November,Blótmónaþ; Decemeber, Giuuli, the same as for January. (Charles W, Jones translation)
(Speaking of October): they call (October) the new year, because then the harvest is gathered and special festivities held. (Wallis translation)
The general division of the year was into two seasons, winter and summer, summer comprising the six months in which the days are longer than the nights, and winter the others. Hence the month with which they began the winter season was called Winterfylleþ, a name compounded of the terms for winter and full moon, because from the full moon of that month winter was esteemed to begin. (Charles W, Jones translation)
(Speaking of November): Blodmonath is “month of immolations”, for then the cattle which were to be slaughtered were consecrated to their gods. (Wallis translation)
Some modern dates and observances:
The Asatru Alliance says that according to “the Old Icelandic Calendar, winter begins on the Satyrday between Hunting 11th and 17th. Winter Nights celebrates the bounty of the harvest and honors Freya and the fertility and protective spirits called Disir, that She leads (often the Disir are seen as our female ancestors). Give glory to Freya and pour a libation of ale, milk, or mead into the soil an offering to the Disir and the Earth itself.” Hunting is what they call October.
The Asatru Folk Assembly in 2011 celebrates Winternights October 13-15. According to their calendar, “we exchange blessings with the essence of the female ancestors, considered collectively as the Disir. They give us their blessings as the season of cold closes in on the world and life retreats into hiding. We honor the Disir, knowing they look on from beyond the grave with loving concern for their living human kin.”
Hrafnar celebrates an “Alfarblot and Winternights Feast, honoring the gods and male ancestors.” The timing for their celebration is based on Winterfylleþ, so in 2011 it should be on/around October 12.
Some Odinic Rite groups observe Winternights for the seven days before Halloween. Acorn Hollow states that “We start by all ‘fasting’ something as a sacrifice. Often this is sweets because the last night we go ‘trick or treating’ and break our fast. This includes all sweets even cookies. Each of the seven nights we light a candle to represent the flame of our Folk and each member recites a memory or story of our kin. Each evening is dedicated to a different facet of our ancestors. For instance a method might be: Gods and Goddesses, ancient ancestors, heroes, long ago deceases [sic] (say 100 years), recently deceased, family pets, and a ‘free night’ to honor all those ‘unknown soldiers’.”
Raven Kindred celebrates a Winter Finding/Disirblot around October 13-15.
The Troth’s timing varies; in Our Troth Volume 2, they recommend using Winterfylleþ timing, the last harvest of local crops, the date of first frost, or perhaps even the last day that a Heathen can pick things from a personal garden. They suggest combining Winternights with a haustblot or perhaps doing a separate blot for harvest. The holiday is one for celebrating the last of the harvest, honoring the alfar and disir, worshipping Freyr, hailing the Winter King, recognizing the Witch Queen, leaving the Last Sheaf, and/or carving pumpkins.