Updated: Feb 14, 2022
In this article, we learn more about the first two months: Þorri and Góa plus the celebrations, folklore, and interesting stories in each.
The month of GÓA and Konudagur
We are now in the middle of the month called Þorri (Thorri - in the image of winter).
We celebrated Bóndadagur (Men's Day / Farmer's Day) on January 20th. The famous feast, Þorrablót, takes place during this month. I own an interesting book called Icelandic Feasts and Holidays, Celebrations, Past and Present by Árni Björnsson published in 1980 by Iceland Review History Series. The following are excerpts from pages 14 – 17 of this book.
It is an age-old custom to celebrate the first day of Thorri. Jón Árnason’s Icelandic Folk and Fairy Tales describe it as the duty of the farmer to welcome Thorri by rising earlier than anyone else. He was to get up and go out clad only in a shirt, barefoot and partly barelegged, for he was to wear only one leg of his underpants, while the other was to be dragged behind. Thus attired, he was to . . . hop on one foot all around the house, dragging his underpants on the other, and bid Thorri welcome to his home. The first day is still called “husband’s day” and on this day the lady of the house is supposed to treat her husband exceptionally well.
In a 1728 letter, the Rev. Jón Halldorson writes that he does not know whether welcoming Thorri is an old custom or a newfangled idea of the common people. He states that he has no knowledge of sensible people participating in such frivolous customs and claims to be actually ashamed to put such nonsense to paper for distinguished people to read. He says, that wintertime and weather in Iceland often depresses people severely and inviting Thorri … so that it might be mild and harmless to her and hers.
These traditions were to befriend the spirits and bring good luck to the farm and home. In the late 14th century, the Flatey Book tells of old King Thorri, who made a sacrifice called a Thorrablot every year in the middle of winter. His daughter was named Goa (the name of the next month) and other royals mentioned were Aegir (Sea), Logi (Fire), Kari (Wind), Frosti (Frost), and Snaer (Snow). So, it seems that Thorri was some kind of winter spirit or weather god.
The word Thorrablot indicates that such ceremonies were customary at the time. These heathen ceremonies were prohibited when Christianity was adopted.
In the 1870s, when Iceland was struggling for independence, the idea seems to have been rekindled of making Þorrablót “according to ancient custom.”
In Akureyri, they have had a Þorrablót celebration every year since 1874 (the 1000th anniversary of the settlement of Iceland). I wonder if my ancestors that lived near Akureyri attended a Þorrablót in the years 1874 until they left for America in 1882 and 1883.
Toasts were made to the old gods and goddesses as well as to the mother country and to prominent citizens. Thor, the thunder god was honored, probably because it was a popular explanation that the name Thorri was for Thor. Writings suggest it was a way to celebrate that people had made it through the toughest part of winter and that warmer days would soon be here.
In modern days, pampering your partner is encouraged and many give a small gift or flowers. The food served at a Þorrablót is of traditional Icelandic dishes, prepared the way people did in earlier times when necessity demanded total utilization of their livestock and there were no modern ways of preservation. Hangikjót (hung smoked lamb meat); whale pickled in whey, fermented shark, svid - singed and boiled sheeps’ heads sawed in two, hrutspungar - sour rams’ testicles, and other soured, fermented, or dried food.
The month of GÓA and Konudagur
On Sunday, February 20th, we celebrate Konudagur (Women's Day) as the first day of the new month, Góa. This is not a new celebration like Valentine's Day but is centuries old. This day is for pampering the woman in your life with a special treat, flowers, dinner, or other special treats. Icelandic Bakers have a Cake of the Year competition and the winning entry will go on sale for Konudagur. A beautiful cake with many photos including this one by Eyþór Árnason and a story (in Icelandic) is found here:
Two old Icelandic sayings about Þorri and Góa are told below.
“To survive Þorri and Góa is to get over the hump of winter.” "að þreyja þorrann og góuna"
“Góa is coming, kind and true; she'll be warm enough. Þorri, you'll be missed by few; you've been plenty rough.”
A great legend comes from the Orkneyinger’s Saga and is told in the Flatey Book: “It happened one winter at the time of the Þorrablót that Gói disappeared (this is the daughter of Þorri). A search was made for her, but she was not found. And when a month had gone by, Þorri had a sacrifice made for the purpose of gaining knowledge of Gói’s whereabouts. They called that a Góiblót.” Legends claim that Gói’s brothers searched for her until finally one of them came to a place we call Heidmark in northern Germany. Here reigned King Hrólf who had kidnapped Gói from Kvenland, which is around the Bothnian Bay between Sweden and Finland.
King Hrólf and Gói were married. Gói’s brother, Nórr, found his sister and had a great battle with King Hrólf where both men survived. Nórr ended up marrying Hrolf’s sister and they returned to Nórr’s kingdom named Norway. There is much more to the story ….
The Old Icelandic Calendar was used in Iceland until 1852 when the Gregorian Calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory the XIII. To review all the old months, see the New Year's article where we wrote an overview of The Old Norse Calendar. Each month has a special meaning and each is based on the weather, sun, and solstices.