The Holy Tides – Hlæfmæsse /Freyfaxi

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When it comes to religious, pagan celebrations most people are familiar with the eight holy days or sabbats that comprise the Wheel of the Year, such as Lugnasadh. In the Northern Tradition, we do not call these celebrations sabbats. Instead, based on words (like the Old Norse hátíðir) used to describe the most holy of these celebrations (like Yule) as high tides, we tend to call the various religious celebrations we recognize today as holy tides (since not all of the holy tides are considered high tides).

Since we practitioners of the Northern Tradition are dealing with a general umbrella culture that existed in vast plurality we look to ancient Germanic, Scandinavian (Norse, Icelandic, Swedish, Danish, etc.) and Anglo-Saxon sources. It is important to understand that these ancient cultures reckoned time in different ways in comparison to one another or to the modern world. They existed in different latitudes, lived amongst different types of geography with unique climate conditions that affected the local agricultural cycle. This means that sometimes the timing between when one group would celebrate and another would celebrate a similar type of holy tide could be several weeks apart.

Sometimes we can see an obvious and clear link between these cousin cultures to a specific holy tide like Yule, in other cases things are a bit less clear, or the celebrations of the different groups can sometimes seem vastly different even when they have a similar root. Case in point: the Northern Tradition holy tides in August known as Hlæfmæsse, or Freyfaxi.

Hlæfmæsse translates in our modern English tongue to Loaf-Mass, and is sometimes also called Lammas. Since mass denotes a Christian ritual, some have theorized that the pre-Christian name for this holy tide may have been Hlæfmæst (feast of loaves), and for this reason some Heathens will use this name instead.

We have numerous instances in Anglo-Saxon literature (like the poem Mologium) that talk about this particular Christianized celebration and some of the traditions attached to it. There’s some folk traditions in areas under the Northern Tradition umbrella that point to the cakes being split into various parts, to be spread across the fields/gardens/land, or a barn as a blessing instead. One of the hallmark traditions of this celebration was that after the reaping of the first grain crop of the year, the grain was taken and baked into loaves or cakes which were given to the Church in offering. In the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, the Christianized version of this observance was described as being the Feast of First Fruits, where locals brought their harvested food to their local church to be blessed, and it later evolved in some Christian traditions into the feasts of the: Transfiguration of Christ, Saint Peter in Chains, etc.

It’s quite easy to see that this sort of practice speaks strongly to a Heathen past where at major points in the agricultural cycle, such as the reaping of a harvest, offerings were made to the Gods and Goddesses.

In terms of the agricultural cycle, because this was the time when the grain was cropped many modern day Heathens see connections symbolically with Sif and the cutting of Her hair. While this may be the first grain harvest of the year, there are more harvests to come. As such Thor is honored as well that He continues to bring rain, but not too much because either drought or flood is bad for the crop. Although while Thor appears in Anglo-Saxon sources (as Thunor) we have no definitive proof of Sif in those sources (though there is a theory she may be represented in Beowulf); of course Thor and Sif do appear among the Norse sources.

 

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By Hellanim: http://bit.ly/2a9Hd3e

 

Unlike Hlaefmasse, Freyfaxi is a holy tide that is a bit trickier to pin down. Mainly because the name Freyfaxi appears to be a modern attachment to an ancient holy tide whose name has not survived into the present. So then where did the name come from, why was it probably attached to this festival? And what exactly is the holy tide of Freyfaxi?

An examination of the lore (Hrafnkel’s Saga and Vatnsdæla Saga) reveals that Freyfaxi was a name used to describe two different horses, both owned by people strongly dedicated to Freyr. The name of the horse reveals much, first the inclusion of the name Frey references that horse’s special connection to the God, and faxi meaning eye-catching mane was a common name used for horses. We also know that in Norway, Freyr’s holy sanctuary Thrandheim held sacred horses dedicated to the God. But if we look back to even older sources, we’ll see not only similarities but we’ll begin to unravel what horses may have to do with this festival.

 

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Source: kchulsmanphotos.wordpress.com

 

In the Germanic tradition, and seen also among the Scandinavian sources horses were incredibly sacred. Tacitus’ Germania describes them as being milk-white–and similar to the sanctuary we see centuries later at Thrandheim–the equines were housed in sacred groves where they were never used for the purposes of riding or working the land. Horses in Germania were described as being more sacredly close to the Gods then even their priests; somehow these horses were in the Gods’ confidence. For this reason horses were used to divine the will of the Gods. They were yoked to a special sort of chariot and their behavior observed. In the neighboring Slav culture we also see horses used in divination as well (but via a different method). We have even older evidence of an active cultic presence connected with horses in even the Bronze Age.

 

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replica of the Gallehus Horns

 

Near Gallehus, Denmark there was an archaeological discovery of ornately decorated drinking horns. These drinking horns depicted all manner of activities: riding, dancing, shooting, acrobatics, ball-playing, warriors and the like. Of particular interest to us, two horses are depicted on the decorated drinking horns: one horse slain next to a woman bearing a horn. While it’s difficult to precisely interpret the story being told in these depictions it is entirely possible that it was describing the type of activities that occurred in conjunction to an ancient holy tide, and that the slain horse was part of a religious ritual and sacrifice. We certainly know from a number of sources that horses were sacrificed.

 

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Haggeby Stone

 

The Haggeby Stone from Uppland, Sweden depicts two horses fighting. References to horse fights can be found in other historical sources, and these horse duels, which appear to have been connected with a holy tide celebration. Horse fights were in antiquity quite common around this time of year held at various local festivals held in Iceland. These duels may have had a religious meaning, in a way potentially similar to pitz – the ancient mayan soccer-like ball game where the loser became the sacrifice. The battle could also represent mythological, religiously significant stories and forces, or perhaps could be used in divination determining how the harvest would fair or how harsh or long the coming winter would be.  When we examine the evidence from other stones of this period that show dueling horses in the context of a wheel like symbol with arms… while it is hardly conclusive it is suggestive of religious-significance in terms of a holy-tide celebration and how that in turns connects with the agricultural cycle. For these reasons, modern believers have decided to connect the name of the sacred horses Freyfaxi, to the ritual duels and festivals we see in Iceland at this time.

If we skip back to the Anglo-Saxon side of the pond, Adam of Bremen tells us the month of August was known as Weodmonað, or month of weeds. Weeds in this case are not simply the unwanted items in one’s garden, but appear to encompass other types of plants as well: such as tares and vetches. Vetches were a crop definitely used in Roman-Britain, and harvested throughout the island nation. While most vetches aren’t particularly helpful directly to humans, some can be processed as a grain humans can eat, others can manifest as an edible legume. But most would have provided great fodder to feed the livestock called on especially to work at this time of year, including horses. Since this is only the beginning of the harvest season, and there are many more crops not yet mature that will be reaped later, keeping your livestock in good fodder was also important for the harvesting to come.

Adam of Bremen talks of the temple of Uppsala and Freyr in his role, describing him as the god of plenty and peace who was invoked at marriages. His idol was depicted with a rather large phallus as is to be expected for a fertility deity. I find it interesting to note that in the Völsa þáttr we have a mention in the lore to the use of a horse phallus as a symbol of worship to a God. While Freyr is not mentioned in the saga, it does provide yet more evidence of cultic horse worship, but could potentially also be a symbolic representation of fertility and therefore Freyr as well. The scale of his phallus as depicted in archaeological sources could easily be used to describe the God as being ‘hung like a horse’.

As a fertility deity Freyr would be intimately tied to the land and the food grown upon it. It is for this reason why Freyr is also a very popular God to hail at this time of year for modern practitioners. Many will also reach out to include other Deities connected with the earth like Nerthus or Eorde (Gerd). Some may choose to include the blacksmith God Wayland (or Volundr)  in their observance of the holy-tide.

Blacksmiths represented the luck, fortune, and self-reliance of a people. The weapons the blacksmith made defended the home, allowed for cooking or use in domestic chores, and created the tools used to work the land. Having a blacksmith in your community meant not only wealth, but that your community was not vulnerable to being easy prey for others to either literally come in to steal your fortune, or who figuratively would steal your fortune in charging outrageous sums/barters for what you needed.

Both Hlaefmasse and Freyfaxi therefore are indeed (to my mind) holy tides connected to the start of the harvest. I would probably describe them as spiritual cousins, essentially they both represent the same basic holy tide but with very specific regional variations. Since we’ve got a little variety here, you will see that also reflected in the actual practices and observances of this holy tide among modern-day Heathens. Some will strictly observe Hlaefmasse, others Freyfaxi, and others will merge the two into one massive celebration though they’ll still use one of the names to describe it. Some will celebrate this holy tide at the beginning of August, others will be celebrating it at a different time. As I mentioned previously, because of calendar and regional differences in the agricultural cycle the timing of things isn’t 100% in sync across the board. Try not to let that confuse you.

Regardless of which approach an individual or group might take, in the end this holy tide is all about giving thanks for the first of the harvest, and the asking for continued blessings for the crops yet harvested. As such it is appropriate to share seasonally appropriate food in offering to the Gods, ancestors and land vaettir. Many will opt to bake homemade breads, or beverages infused or flavored with seasonal fruit in offering. Thor, Sif, Freyr, and Freya are popularly honored at this time.

 

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Exploring Our Gods & Goddesses: Sinthgunt [Redux]

Our only surviving reference to the Goddess Sinthgunt comes from the Old High German Merseburg Incantation (also known as the “Horse Cure Charm”), which dates to around the 9th or 10th Century.

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Not for Commercial Use 

 

In the source, She is described as being a sister to the Goddess Sunna, who is the personification of the Sun. Within the context of the story, Baldr’s horse has been injured, and so the Gods and Goddesses present (Odin, Frig, Fulla, Sunna, & Sinthgunt) render healing aid to the horse. Literally the story tells us only 2 things about her:

  1. She is the sister to Sunna
  2. She has affinity with healing

The only other thing we know about Her, is Her name. And so explorations into the etymology of Her name have been explored by scholars. Using the spelling of Sinthgunt, one scholar finds the etymology renders as “the night-walking one” and thus She may be meant to be the Moon. However, we know that elsewhere in Northern Tradition cosmology, the Moon is a masculine force embodied by the God Mani. However, by switching two letters in the spelling of Her name, so that it now reads as Sinhtgunt, the proposed etymology renders now as “heavenly body, star”. Interestingly enough in the original source manuscript for this charm, Her name is spelled in this later way. However, when it comes to the spellings of names, I always recommend caution. Spelling conventions at the time when this text was penned, was not yet formalized. In texts throughout Europe, spelling could vary widely for the same word within even the same body of text. 

In the Poetic Edda, specifically within the Volupsa it states:

Sól það né vissi
hvar hún sali átti,
stjörnur það né vissu
hvar þær staði áttu,
máni það né vissi
hvað hann megins átti.

[The sun knew not
where she had her hall,
the stars knew not where they had a stead,
the moon knew not
what power he possessed.

 

Here we see Sol/Sunna, Mani, and the “Stars” being written about by means of personification, and therefore most likely deification as well. This to me, strengthens the concept of this being a trio of siblings. Cosmologically, Sunna and Mani’s father, and most likely Sinthgunt’s as well, is Mundilfari, the time turner. His name, literally is how we count time, and it makes sense that his children would be the references we use to count time. Today we still mark time by the progress of the sun, the moon, and the stars. Although due to light pollution, most of us don’t notice the stars as much as we once did.

Personally, I believe Her to be sister to both Sunna and Mani, and that She is personified by the Stars, perhaps specifically Polaris, as that star is always visible in the Northern Hemisphere. However, very little information has survived about the pre-Christian beliefs and names tied to the Stars from Northern Tradition cultures. Most of what has survived, is unclear as to what specific star or stars it may reference.

Still, while we have but a mere reference to Her, that doesn’t prevent us from trying to learn more. She is a Goddess whom I worship, I venerate Her, and I give offerings to Her.

 

A prayer card featuring Sinthgunt is available within the “House of Mundilfari” prayer card set at Wyrd Curiosities on Etsy. All cards come from Galina Krasskova‘s passion for the arts and polytheistic devotion, to create the Prayer Card Project. Since so much religious iconography has been destroyed, or defaced in the course of human history, she is actively making new religious prayers and iconography available to the various modern polytheistic communities to support those who are building their religious communities, building their devotional practices, and hungering for art that represents their religious faith. All while also supporting the artists within these burgeoning communities.

 

The Word Heathen – How Context Matters

So this meme recently crossed my feed, and it annoyed me. Greatly.
(Any areas in red, are items I’ve edited on the original meme, because I don’t want the original meme as it was to be shared anymore).

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I’m going to ignore the surprise bitch aspect (I don’t think it’s helpful in terms of getting others to learn about us by being disrespectful like this, even though my inner snark can appreciate it). That’s not what irked me. What irked me here is the use of the phrase “godless heathen,” which is deeply problematic.

The ancient followers and believers of the old Gods of Germany, Scandinavia and Anglo-Saxon England did not have a name that they called their religion because their religious identity was simply part of their cultural identity. It wasn’t until Christianity encroached on these ancient polytheistic cultures that the term Heathen (used by the 4th Century Christian Goth Ulfilas in his translation of the Bible) was first employed to distinguish between Christians and the ‘other’. It is believed that Ulfilas was inspired to follow the example the Romans had created when they termed the word pagan. Ulfilas’ use of the term heathen in his translation of the Bible would trickle down the centuries until the word was used in various Viking Age sagas later.

Through the centuries since, the terms pagan and heathen have in the common vernacular become somewhat interchangeable, and the meaning has shifted and changed. Christians later used the term to describe any non-Christian people regardless of geographic location, and eventually the word was stripped of even religious connotation in some usages to merely refer to something that is strange or uncivilized. Today there is a movement of some modern-day practitioners trying to reclaim the original definition of the term Heathen and using it to name their collective religious identity as Heathenry, of which I am one. I’m not godless, I am one who has and venerates many Gods and Goddesses. The words and context of how we use those words matter.

The word anathema is used today, perverted by Christianity, to refer to something that is: horrible, malevolent, abominable, abhorrently evil. But the word comes from pre-Christian times, and meant something completely different. Anathema derives from Ancient Greek: ἀνάθεμα, anáthema, meaning “an offering” or “anything dedicated”. So this is a term used in connection with votive offerings, sacred devotion and dedication. Of course Christianity would vilify proper sacred devotions to the Gods and Goddesses as it was in direct opposition to their worldview. Hel originally meant the underworld (literally where the dead dwell, the earth), personified and deified by the Goddess of the same name. It etymologically also has connotations to the word hall, so the hall of the dead is a derivative meaning as well. Christianity stole the term and made it a term of negativity when spreading their doctrine. They turned it into a place of evil.

I understand the intent of the meme, but especially within the non-Christian spheres where pagans and polytheists all dwell and identify with, I’m disappointed to see the Christian definition and phrase “godless heathen” being used as it perpetuates Christianity’s erosion of these old and sacred traditions and religions; it continues the malignant stereotype. Even in a way that is mocking Christianity here, why are we still using the “godless heathen” phraseology of the religious oppresor that has done all they can to destroy us?

A “godless heathen” is a phraseology that is uniquely Christian in its origins. The phrase carries with it connotations to an uncivilized barbarian lacking of any religious mores or values, in other words an unintelligent inferior, someone not worthy because they do not acknowledge the God of Christianity as the one and only god. This sort of phraseology and attitude has been used as justification for the genocide of indigenous (and polytheistic) religions around the world.

Part of the church’s Discovery Doctrine that led to the Catholic Church’s genocide of millions globally and led to slavery (from Africa, to other non-Christian populations around the world, including the enslavement of First Nations People sold into slavery in Albuquerque’s Old Town). An attitude that led to the Mission School System and places like the Carlisle Boys School. For those unfamiliar with the Mission School system, the church ran schools determined to beat the non-Christian out of their students which meant horrible mental and physical abuse, resulted in the theft of land and property and did in fact result in the death of untold vast numbers. The mission schools represented the death of a culture: both physically and spiritually and is something the Catholic Church engaged in for about 500 years across the globe. The genocidal tendencies of the church to the First Nation Peoples of the Americas was just as devastating as the holocaust was to the Jews.

Phraseology of godless heathen, from the past to the modern era, has been used both directly and indirectly in various attitudes to justify forced conversion, the trail of tears/the long walk (and similar incidents), the aforementioned mission school system, land grabs, taking indigenous children from their parents (which still happens). Phraseology like these are behind attitudes that help to make Native American women the most preyed upon population in the U.S., 4 out of 5 will be the victims of violence, with a murder rate 10 times that of the US average for women who aren’t Native.

In other areas of the world the Church attacked the old polytheistic traditions too. Most pagans and polytheists are at least somewhat familiar with how that manifested in our religious traditions. For Northern Tradition polytheists, or Heathens, we know that the church canonized as Saint Olaf, the late King of Norway, Olaf II Haraldsson, who is credited as making Norway completely Christian. In fact if you look at the Heimskringla, aka the Sagas of the Norse Kings, the deeds of pagan killing is essentially bragged about in the annals of history. Famously, one of our martyrs of the Northern Tradition, Olvir of Egg, was executed by him. His story can be found in Óláfs saga helga.

Words matter, and how we use those words matter. Pagans and polytheists are attacked so much from the outside, we shouldn’t be doing the work of those who would destroy us by calling ourselves godless, when we are blessed with an abundance of deities.

I’m going to leave you with a song, “We are Heathens”, performed and re-branded to a Heathen religious bent by Karl Donaldsson. It’s sung to the tune of the song “They’ll Know We Are Christians”by Peter Scholtes. The lyrics seem uniquely apt to this post, you can listen here: https://youtu.be/hUkL8J5STV0

Chorus:
And they’ll know we are heathens by our might and our main,
And they’ll know what heathen means by the name.

We are brave men and women, courage worn like a shield
We will slay our foes and leave their bodies in the field
And we’ll make sure that our kin are all safe and healed

Chorus

We are honest with others; to the gods, we are Tru
When we speak, there is no doubt as to what we will do
Honest words can bring you close to your kin, too

Chorus

We will live with honor, we have nothing to hide
The worth of our ancestors was judged when they died
We will save women’s dignity and honor men’s pride

Chorus

We will demonstrate loyalty to gods and to man
Forging bonds of fidelity wherever we can
And some day our deeds will be sung by our clan

Chorus

We will make a place for visitors to our stead
We will share our ale and we will share our bread
And tonight, you must stay inside, in our spare bed

Chorus

Our minds will be focused, like a wielded sword
Our hearts act as one, as our bodies’ ward
Over each one’s existence there is only one lord

Chorus

We will work with each other, we will work side by side
Younger hands will be influenced by older hands’ guide
And together, the work we’ve done will aid others’ lives

Chorus

We rely on each person to bear his own weight
He will hold up his end making his worth great
And together we become the masters of our fate

Chorus

We stand strong in the face of adversity
We are stone in the path of instability
Persevere, now, to make it so our folk remain free

Chorus

🤦‍♀️ Karl, what a pile 💩

Yet again, the Wild Hunt publishes some drivel by Karl Seigfried. Galina does a good job of cutting to the heart of the matter and calling stupid is as stupid does, but there’s a couple of points I wanted to expand upon.

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Egads.

The importance of knowing one’s ancestors is the most basic of things, you must know your roots, your tradition, your origins. And I don’t just mean that by genetic legacy, but by the legacy of the tradition itself. We see there are laws, that if you couldn’t identify the graves of those on the land, you couldn’t inherit the land. There were special rituals for the ancestors. For crying out loud, he wants to gut the religion of one of it’s pillars of praxis. What a fuckin idiot.

Anyone who knows history, knows we have ample evidence that these peoples weren’t a “white race” but a multi-cultural one. The true “VIKINGS” those who went a-viking, were pirates, people would join up and drop out wherever they went. We see trade, and other cultural exchanges. There’s a genetic study that shows a chunk of modern Icelanders are descended from an indigenous north american tribe. In the Bibliotheca Augustana we see a text that speaks of cultural groups joining up with the raiding vikings. The Annals of Ulster show mixed cultural groups across the countryside. An analysis of skeletons at sites linked to Vikings using the latest scientific techniques points to a mix of Scandinavian and non-Scandinavian peoples without clear ethnic distinctions in rank or gender. Studies from genetics, to isotope evidence, point to a culturally diverse group. Archaeological trade goods also show great exchange.

The early Vikings’ success stemmed in their ability to embrace and adapt from a wide range of cultures: Christian Irish, Muslims of the Abbasid Caliphate, and all parts in between. Some great academic books on the subject are James Graham-Campbell’s Viking World and Dubois’ Nordic Religions in the Viking Age.

Basically “Karl” is buying into the “oh so white” theory, and that just shows his own lack of credentials in this subject area.

So since Karl has wrongly appropriated our religion, can we get rid of him? Maybe have an auction and see if some other religion wants to adopt him?

Not to mention, it’s so absurd to allow a fringe to dictate the practices of the mainstream. You never see people saying because of crazies like the Branch Davidians, or The Peoples Temple Agricultural Project (aka Jonestown) that Christianity should redefine it’s entire praxis.

🐣 Ostara: The Goddess & The High Holy Tide 🐣

For those of us in the Northern Tradition (which encompasses the peoples with a common worship to Odin), the high holy tide of Ostara is upon us. Some are gearing up to celebrate during the astronomical spring equinox (which varies slightly but always occurs between March 19-21), some may wait for the signs of spring in their local area, and others may postpone their celebrations so that they coincide more with the observed Christian date of Easter instead, which for 2019 occurs on April 21th. The later allows heathen children to be able to participate in more mainstream activities such as egg hunts with their peers at school and at community parks.

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Ostara by Nichol Skaggs (nicholskaggs.com)

Continue reading “🐣 Ostara: The Goddess & The High Holy Tide 🐣”

Remembering Olvir – A Heathen Martyr

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One of the religious staples of the Northern Tradition, is the honor and reverence shown for not only our ancestors, but also for our heroes. All too often when reading some of the grand exploits, battles and wars found in the sagas we associate the word hero to that of being a warrior, but while there are indeed many great heroes who are warriors, sometimes heroes are simply those who stay true to their beliefs.

It is a historical fact that the Christian conversion of the pre-Christian peoples wasn’t always a peaceful affair. Some of the early Norse Kings have an especially bloody reputation when it came to killing the ancient heathens within their lands, and these accounts are preserved in part within the Heimskringla, a collection of various historically oriented sagas about the Norse Kings.

In the annals of history, we know far more about the Christian conquering leaders, than we do the names of the devout heathens that would not submit to conversion. Occasionally, we do have preserved the names of some of those ancient pagan martyrs who were determined to continue to honor their Gods and the traditions of their people. One such account occurs in the 11th Century during the reign of King Olaf II of Norway (canonized as Saint Olaf), and it is at this time of year in particular, as we approach the holy tide of Ostara that I always remember and honor in ritual: Olvir. He was a renowned local leader from a powerful family in the Trondheim area of Norway, and as such it fell to him to represent his people to the King, and to conduct religious rites within his local community.

Continue reading “Remembering Olvir – A Heathen Martyr”

The Holy Tides: Charming of the Plough / Disting / Solmonaþ

For many pagans, this is the time of year where they honor and celebrate Imbolc one of the pagan holidays that comprise the Wheel of the Year. For those of us in the Northern Tradition however, we have our only celebrations known as holy tides (from the Old Norse hátíðir) that we may currently be celebrating instead: Charming of the Plough, Disting, or Solmonaþ (month of mud).

Source: D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths

Continue reading “The Holy Tides: Charming of the Plough / Disting / Solmonaþ”

The Twelve Days of Yule: From Mother’s Night thru Twelfth Night

THE TWELVE DAYS OF YULE

If you’ve ever heard the Christmas Carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” modern heathens opt to celebrate this as the Twelve Days of Yule, with the last day culminating on 12th Night. Since ancient calendars followed a different method of time, the solstice celebrations as well as later ‘Christmassy’ style observances can vary from place to place as to when they occur. Today, most pagans and heathens celebrate the yuletide as running from approximately December 20 – December 31 (but there are variations). For Christians in 567 AD the Council of Tours would officially proclaim that the 12 Days were to be celebrated from Christmas Day through to the Epiphany.

We do know that the celebration of Yule wasn’t always twelve days long. In the Norse text Heimskringla: The Saga of Hakon the Good talks about it once lasting for three days, or as long as the ale lasted. The night it began was known as the slaughter night, where animals would be ritually slain. Ynglingna saga also talks of animal sacrifice. The meat later used to feed the community, as well as the Gods. We know there were practices as well of human sacrifice too during other ritual observances. In one story in Snorri’s Edda is that of the Swedish King being sacrificed to help during years of drought and famine, the scene famously imagined by Swedish painter Carl Larsson in his Midvinter’s Blot.

Continue reading “The Twelve Days of Yule: From Mother’s Night thru Twelfth Night”

Yuletide Origins & Traditions – The Santa Claus Mythos

Just as our pagan cousins celebrate the eight major sabbats that comprise the Wheel of the Year, for those of us in the Northern Tradition we too have somewhat similar key celebrations that we call holy tides (from the Old Norsehátíðir). Some of these celebrations are more significant and special than others, and these especially important holy-days are known as high holy tides: such as Ostara, Winter Nights, and Yule which is now upon us.

Continue reading “Yuletide Origins & Traditions – The Santa Claus Mythos”

🕯️ Glad Lussinatta! 🕯️

For me Yule personally begins in another week, however if we look to the various holiday traditions from Krampus and Saint Nicholas, to today’s celebration of Saint Lucia Night, we see the pre-Christian remnants scattered across all of December. But I wanted to acknowledge Lussi on Her feast day today in Scandinavia.

Some scholars have posited that the Christianized Saint Lucia, may very well have pagan origins related to the figure of Lussi. We see Lussi who led her Wild-Hunt like horde called the Lussiferda. (Similar to other figures in the Northern Tradition: Perchta & the Perchten, which in turn probably connects to the similar Nicholas (most likely from Odinic origins) and the Krampus). On Lussinatta, folk traditions have Lussi coming down chimneys to steal misbehaving children.

The practice of Lussevaka – to stay awake through Lussinatt to guard oneself and the household against evil, not only fits symbolically well with a solstice celebration of longest night, but also brings to mind the description from Bede that Mother’s Night was observed for the entire night as well. While there’s a few different Christian origin stories for Lucia, or Saint Lucy, one of them has her bringing light to persecuted Christians hiding in the catacombs surrounded by the dead with nothing but a lit wreath to guide her. Symbolically, traversing the dark and realm of the dead with light, seems to fit with pre-Christian symbolism.

In modern times Saint Lucia’s Day is observed on December 13th, 12 days before Christmas. So, this very much syncs as a parallel to yule starting with Mother’s Night for the 12 days of the modern yuletide, even though the dates between modern pagan and Christian observances vary. Prior to the adoption of the modern Gregorian Calendar, her feast day in the Julian calendar fell on the Winter’s Solstice.

On a side note, the traditional depiction of Saint Lucia is of a woman clad in white. We know this is sacred iconography that is referenced time and again in Northern Tradition areas. We see this mentioned in Tacitus’ Germania that priest or priestesses wore white, we also see in the folk traditions mentioned by Grimm that women clad in white appeared at dawn for Ostara/Eostre.

Lussesang: a song for Lussinatta

While I don’t agree with the description saying this is for Freya (and thus assuming that Lussi is an aspect of Freya), the lyrics only mention Lussi and Alfrodul (an attested name for Sunna) and the words are perfect tonight. If you visit this on youtube, you can find the lyrics in Swedish and English if you expand the description.