In Sweden, a feast or fair called "Disting" (the Þing of the idises) was held early in February, perhaps around February 2. De Vries thinks that this feast, rather than Winternights, may well have been the feast spoken of as dísablót in some cases (de Vries, Religionsgeschichte, I, p. 455). F. Ström clarifies the difference as being regional: the Winternights dísablót was West Nordic (Norwegian/Icelandic), the ploughing-time *Dísaþing or dísablót, East Nordic (Swedish), while the public celebration of the West Nordic dísablót only took place in the southeastern part of Norway (Nordisk Hedendom, p. 194). It seems to have been something of a communal event, as opposed to the private household rites of Winternights which were also centered around the idises; the Disting was actually held as a public fair, apparently the first large gathering of the year.
Other customs associated with this time were the ploughing of the first furrows, which had special might. Cakes were laid in the first furrow, likely as an offering to the earth and perhaps the field-wights. One understanding of the first ploughing is seen on the Bronze Age rock carving from Litsleby, Bohuslän (Sweden). An ithyphallic man with a hammer or axe in one hand and a tree in the other is starting to plough the third furrow; P.V. Gløb comments that "it is obvious that he is engaged in the first ploughing of the year to awaken the earth's fruitfulness after the sleep of winter with the phallus of the plough, the ploughshare", and cites the old Bornholm saying that "'Three furrows in Thor give a green spring'" (Mound People, p. 150). The tale of Gefjon ploughing out Sealand with her four oxen-sons may well be rooted in the rites of this time.
In Teutonic Religion, the association of the plough breaking the ground with the tale of Freyr and Gerðr is spoken of at some length: this feast is the one at which Skírnir wins his way, breaking through Gerðr's resistance by use of the thurisaz rune so that Freyr will be able to wed her and make her fruitful. Under "Skaði", we have also spoken of another form of the thawing of the wintry goddess. Either myth is fitting for performance as a ritual drama at this time.
The discussion of Gerðr and Skaði in this book also brings up the likelihood that the tales of the wooing of both of these goddesses were related to the rite performed in "Völsa þáttr" (fully described in the chapter on Fro Ing) in which the preserved horse phallus "Völsi" was passed about with the refrain, "May the Mörnir (etin-women) take this blessing!" It is possible that this rite might particularly have taken place around the time of the Idis-Þing, for this is the time when the frozen fields must be broken and the frozen earth coaxed to thaw by the same might - when the winter goddesses cast off their cloaks and let fruitfulness spring forth again. As well as the ritual dramas spoken of above, another way of calling these powers forth (as seen in the rite below) would be to make your own "Völsi" out of stuffed leather, paper-maché, or perhaps a large dried leek, and let it be passed among the folk, with each holder making a verse that ends "May the Mörnir receive this blessing!" The "Völsi" could then be set into the first furrow, or kept for later use.
If possible, this rite should be done outdoors; if not, all the windows of the house should be opened. You will need horn, blessing-bowl, blessing-twig, ale, a whip, a "Völsi" (or, if shyness or the problems of doing such a rite in public make this not a good idea, a bread baked in the shape of a bull), a miniature plough or something that looks reasonably like one, and a small round bread or cookie with a sun-wheel traced into its top. If you cannot go outdoors for the ploughing part of the rite, you will need a tray full of earth.
I. Godwo/man does Hammer-rite.
II. Godwo/man stands facing Northwards and calls out,
Idises all, awake from your sleep!
I hail you, holy, to Þing.
Dark from the north-ways day-bright from southward,
fare over air from the east,
fare over waters from west.
Frija from Fensalir, Frowe, we hail thee!
and all of the goddesses gathered about,
and all of the idises in your fair halls,
and all of the maids of might who dwell there.
Holda, cast off your hulling of frost,
Earth sleeps no more in still.
The birches are budding bright Sun is lighting,
the wind is wet with spring.
Idises waken from winter's long darkness,
holy, from worlds hid,
Idises' eyes are opened by summons,
thronging, they come to their Þing!
The Godwo/man fills the horn with ale and says,
Idises and goddesses all, be well-come in this stead. Here at your holy Þing, we raise this horn to you!
S/he drinks and passes it on, each in turn toasting the idises and goddesses.
III. Godwo/man lifts the whip, cracking it through the air three times and then when-ever the rhythm of the call to Gefjon seems to need it. With the last word, s/he strikes the earth three times with the whip.
Gefjon, plough-steerer, graving the land
urge thy oxen on!
Etin-might rising ruled by goddess,
steered and shaped by thy hand.
Gefjon, winning geld for thy tales,
urge thy oxen on!
green are the furrows grown behind plough-tooth
of Gefjon, giver of life!
IV. Godwo/man sets the whip down, puts both hands on the "Völsi" or bull, saying,
Etin-maids shining awesome god-brides,
fair and cold as the frost,
Gerðr and Skaði glimmer before us,
barred from us by bright byrnie,
fenced off by flickering flame.
Etin-maids shining awesome god-brides,
white-armed as winter's snow,
Skaði in grimness Gerðr unloving,
still show their shapes unkind.
V. If the wooing of Skaði or Gerðr is to be done as a ritual drama, it should take place here. Otherwise the Godwo/man goes on:
Bright might must flow to melt the ice,
shining with leaping light.
Here is goddess-greeter, gift to the dises,
to break the bark of earth,
to ease the hate of ice.
S/he lifts up the "Völsi" or bull and speaks a fitting verse, ending with the words,
May the Mörnir take this blessing!
S/he passes it around the folk and each of them do the same. For those whose word-skills are not quite up to those of our forebears, some sample verses might be:
I take the vingull tall with might, I shake it towards the shining brides. He grows like a leek, and great, he springs up, May the Mörnir take this blessing!
I lift the vingull aloft in hand, I hail his height, the hallowed spring, For fruitful fields and full wombs all, May the Mörnir take this blessing!
I hold the vingull heartly blessing, the might that flows that makes ice loose, thrusting through the thurses' garth-walls, May the Mörnir take this blessing!
VI. The Godwo/man puts the vingull or bull on the earth, saying once more, "May the Mörnir take this blessing!" If a bread bull is used, s/he cuts its throat as s/he speaks these words. S/he then takes up the plough and says,
Shining, the plough shall the earth furrow,
thrice is the thorn thrust to earth,
The plough must score that seeds spring forth.
First furrow drive forth a good year
- s/he cuts the first furrow.
Furrow second drive seeding weal
- s/he cuts the second.
Furrow third drive thews of troth
- s/he cuts the third.
Nerthus kind we nytt thy gifts,
and Earth, who gives to all.
Gefjon, we greet thee as growing starts,
goddess who gives at need.
The Godwo/man lifts the round bread, saying,
Now see we Sun-wheel as she rises brightly, and glad shines on the ground.
Sun to earth we send with bread, and shall all have their share.
S/he breaks the bread into three pieces and lays a piece into each furrow. S/he fills the horn with ale again, signs the Sun-wheel over it and says,
"To the all-giving Earth!"
S/he drinks and passes it around the circle, pouring what is left into the blessing bowl after.
VII. The Godwo/man takes up the blessing twig, dips it in the bowl, and sprinkles the plough and vingull, saying,
"Blessed be those who open the earth."
S/he then sprinkles the harrow if there is one and each of the folk, speaking such blessings as s/he feels inspired to. S/he lifts the blessing bowl, pouring the ale slowly onto the earth as s/he says,
Ale to earth and all to nytt,
thus be the blessing made!
Hail the idises all!
The folk answer,
"Hail the idises all!"
The rite is over.