To our ancient ancestors in Scandinavia, the earth was alive and teeming with spirits. There were spirits of the land, gods and goddesses in the sky, and ancestors all around us. Our primitive, powerful male ancestors were the Alfar who lived in the mounds. And our nurturing, yet sometimes vengeful female ancestors were the Disir. To modern Norse pagans, we still honor these ancestors in daily life and in ritual on special holy-days. In this post, we will meet the Disir and learn how to honor them at the Disablot. We’ll determine a Disablot date (as best we can) and provide ideas for Disablot rituals.

Table of Contents

Who are the Disir?

The Disir (singular dis, pronounced DEE-sir and DEES) are the female version of the Alfar. So, if the Alfar are a family’s ancient male ancestors, the Disir are the female. Depending on the source, the Disir are defined as different types of spirits. They might be ancestral goddesses, elves, Norns (who are also said to be of Alf-kin), or even Valkyries. Each person has their own familial Disir, as well as a Valkyrie. As we see with other spirits in the Norse realms, there is a lot of crossover between the Disir and other female entities. Odin’s Valkyries are referred to as his own personal Disir in one poem. Essentially, the Disir are nameless ancestral goddesses who bring their bloodline fortune OR misfortune. It is believed they were sacrificed to, often bloody sacrifices, in order to keep them appeased. If the Disir are appeased, they protect and bless their families.

The Disir’s Domain: Fortune and Fate

The Disir’s role in a Norse family is multi-fold. Not only do they protect and bring prosperity, but they are also believed to control the descendant’s destiny. When they are mentioned in the Sagas, it is said that they move, control, and weave man’s fate. This is where we see a major union between the Norns of Norse mythology and the Disir, since the Norns are also known to be weavers of fate. If I had to delineate between the Norns and my own personal Disir, I would say the difference is the Norns who tended to the World Tree are the ultimate weavers of fate. They control and move the destiny of the gods and the Universe itself. Whereas my personal Disir have domain over my fate, as well as my family members’. Families also have their own Valkyrie who will guide the family’s hero to the afterlife upon death.

The Disir in the Sagas

The Disir are mentioned only a few times in the Sagas. In the Saga of Olaf Tryggvason, there is debate on what to give as sacrifice to an Icelandic family’s Disir. Apparently, there is some Christian beliefs infiltrating the family, and one particular man disagrees with sacrificing a human. So, instead, they offer a bull to the Disir on Disablot. Well, it doesn’t go well for the man who offered the bull. The Disir, nine women cloaked in black, descend from somewhere in the North upon the family’s homestead. The man answers the door and the Disir slaughter him. Then they leave. I guess they received their human sacrifice anyway. Keeping in mind, these Sagas were written after the Christianization of Iceland, so the Disir may be painted in a more demonic light.

In yet another tale, Princess Alfhild honors her ancestors by reddening her family’s alf altar with sacrifices. We can assume the “reddening” is some form of blood.

Setting up a reading

What is Disablot?

We know the Disir require sacrifice in order to be appeased and to provide us with blessings and protection. But how often and when do we give to our ancestral goddesses? As often as you’d like, but more specifically, there was and still is a holy-day called Disablot, which means Disir and Blood sacrifice. This is when our ancient ancestors made it a point to sacrifice as an offering to their tutelary spirits. They were bloody, according to the Sagas, but that doesn’t mean YOU have to sacrifice anything with blood. Sacrifice comes in many forms, but mostly means to offer something of value to your ancestral spirits.

Disablot is likened to the Celtic ancestral festival known as Samhain. If you’ve honored your ancestors at Samhain, you may carry over some of those traditions on Disablot. For example, setting up an altar, providing offerings, inviting your ancestors to your dinner table, etc. More on that later.

Disablot Date

There is some debate on the Disablot date, and truly know way for us to know definitively. Most Norse pagans tend to lean towards the end of Autumn/beginning of Winter, which back then would have been sometime at the end of October or early November (funny how the Celtic Samhain was at the same time). This liminal time was referred to as Winter Nights.

There is another holy-day of sacrifice for the Disir in Sweden called the Disting or Disir-Assembly which is held at the beginning of February. It is similar in tradition and belief; however, is a totally different time of year. But also seemingly held at a liminal time of year. And, in old Anglo-Saxon tradition, a similar holiday known as Mother’s Night (Modraniht) was held on the Winter Solstice. The Anglo-Saxons honored their female ancestors on this night with offerings, song, and prayer.

Who Are YOUR Disir? How Do You Find Out?

We know the Disir are female ancestors that protect, guide, and bless us. They also control our fate, according to Norse mythology. But how do we know WHO they are? How can we find out who our personal Disir are? My belief is you’ll automatically know one or two of your Disir right away. It might be a grandmother with whom you were extremely close to, an Aunt who passed away who looked out for you while alive. It might even be a sister who passed prematurely.

For me personally, the Disir that I know of are great grandmothers, great great grandmothers, as well as an Aunt and a cousin who passed away in fairly recent years. I know they are in my Disir, because I feel their protection and guidance in my life. Now, that doesn’t mean that every female ancestor will be one of your Disir, but I feel you’ll know the difference in your heart. In addition, you will have some Disir that are ancient. Some so ancient that they might not even have names. Just faces. You can meet them on the astral plane. Dreams will also make their countenance known to you.

Our witch ancestors will watch over us.

Disablot Ritual and Traditions: How to Honor Your Disir

As we’ve said, sacrifice comes in many forms. The sacrifices to the Disir at Disablots of the past will not look the same today. Here are some ways to honor your Disir on Disablot:

1. Set Up An Altar

Set up an altar specifically dedicated to the Disir and on which you’ll place your offerings and say your prayers. This altar can be outside or inside, as long as its a place that you can access easily and of which no one will mess with it. I prefer to set mine up on a buffet, kitchen counter, or as a centerpiece of my dining room table. You could make an altar outside on the top of an old stump, on an outside table, in the garden, etc. Cleanse, consecrate, and dedicate this altar to your Disir.

2. Offerings on Disablot

Sacrifice on Disablot comes in the form of offerings in today’s age. This means giving gifts to your ancestral mothers including food, beverage, song, prayer, incense, candleflame, etc. Whatever you feel drawn to give to your ancestors on Disablot is appropriate. In my experience, my ancestors will tell me what it is they want as an offering. I’ve even made simmer pots as offering to my Disir on past holidays. The act of crafting something becomes an offering. OR you can literally give something up as a form of sacrifice. Examples might be coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, etc.

3. Building a Family Tree

When I began working with my ancestors, I learned quickly that they don’t require as much as we might think. They simply want to be recognized. Building my family tree in Ancestry served to shine a light on individuals in my bloodline whose names and faces had likely been forgotten for decades to centuries. Sometimes just saying an ancestor’s name out loud and then looking into their history acts as the greatest offering. So, if you can, work on your family tree near and on Disablot.

4. Divination with the Disir on Disablot

One of the easiest ways to communicate with your Disir is through divination. Choose a method or tool that feels best to you. Examples include Tarot and Oracle cards, pendulums, mirror scrying, augury, bibliomancy, rune casting, etc. I would venture to say the runes and cards are sometimes the clearest channel between us and our ancestors. But I know they will send signs through birds, animals, and other things in nature. Ask your Disir to send you a sign and see what they send you. The most powerful to do this is on Disablot…when the Disir are most active on this plane.

5. Ancestral Grimoire

Honor the Disir by creating an ancestral grimoire. Each page or section can be divided up per Dis. I’ve been reading Ancestral Grimoire by Nancy Hendrickson, which guides the reader on how to connect with a different ancestor each month. And subsequently building a grimoire in their names. I highly recommend this book and to start your own grimoire. It can be as elaborate or as simple as you’d like and can afford.

6. Disablot Ritual

Construct and perform your own Disablot ritual. You’ll need an altar, offerings, candles, incense, robe, and a written ritual. I recommend performing this on Disablot and in the dark/by candlelight. Cleanse yourself and your space beforehand. I open my front door and invoke my Disir to my space (if performing inside). I cast a circle, provide offering, and call on my ancestors. Then I allow them to speak to me through vision. But, as I said, you can craft this ritual in whatever form you’d like. Don’t forget to release your Disir and release the circle when you’re done. Then cleanse your space again, if you feel the need.

Should we be frightened of the Disir?

I don’t believe the Disir are spirits to be scared of…if you’re on the right path in life and if you have respect for your ancestors. What I would say is this – approach them with a high level of respect and gratitude. If they ask you to give a specific offering or to make a certain decision, listen to them. If you defy them after invoking them, you may indeed anger them. I feel this is the same for nearly every spirit – gods, ancestors, elementals, etc. Having a healthy relationship with your Disir is crucial, if you plan on working with these tutelary spirits. In the same breath, there are stories of the Disir being warlike, enjoying bloody sacrifices, etc. So the name of the game here is to be careful. Be aware. Be respectful.

More Norse Magic:

Disablot date, rituals, and more

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