fasta (OSw) faste (ODan) verb

The Church ordered people to fast, i.e. to abstain from particular kinds of food, mainly meat, on certain weekdays and in certain periods of the year (esp. during Lent); see fasta n. The purpose was to subjugate the powers of the flesh and to deliver the mind from distractions with respect to the teachings of the church.

The weekdays in question were Wednesday (only mentioned in the OIce laws) and Friday. Fasting was also obligatory on Ember Days (ON imbrudagar, see imbrudagr), periods of three days four times a year; on Rogation Days (ON gangdagar, see gangdagher), i.e. 25 April (OSw litli gangdagher) and the three days preceding Ascension Day; and on the days preceding many of the greater feasts such as e.g. Whitsun, jónsmessa, maríumessuaptann, ólafsmessuaptann, and three weeks preceding Christmas. The FrL (Tfb) also states that men were to go fasting to the assembly.

The most severe form of fasting was (ON) fasta við salt ok brauð, i.e. only water, salt, and bread were allowed. On the other hand, the rules of fasting were sometimes eased: meat was never allowed, but milk products, fish, and eggs were permitted. On some fasting days, one meal was allowed, on some others two meals, or one had to fast until noon (three o’clock). The punishment for violations of the fasting rules varied, ranging from fines to outlawry; but dispensations were granted, e.g. to manual labourers, to travellers, to the poor, and to the infirm. Sick and old people, persons under the age of twelve (in Iceland: fourteen), pregnant women, and persons in a state of emergency — when the eating of flesh was necessary for survival — were exempted.

Fasting was a usual penitential exercise, sometimes consisting in a diet of water and bread for a period of six weeks. In the OSw DL and SdmL, fasting was combined with fines in cases of illegitimate oaths, as well as in cases of multiple participants in killings in SdmL and the ODan ESjL.

For further details, see the Christian Law section (kristinn réttr) of the various provincial laws.

do penance OSw DL Mb
OSw VmL Äb

fast ODan ESjL 1, 3
OSw HL Kkb
OSw KrL Rb Eb DbI SmbI
OSw ÖgL Kkb, Eb, Db, Rb
OSw SdmL Mb, Till

fast as penance OSw MEL Äb

observe the fast OSw DL Kkb Refs:

DMA s.v. fasting, Christian; KLNM s.v. fasta

  • ‘fasta’. A Lexicon of Medieval Nordic Law.