Holidays in Anglo-Saxon Heathenry

The Christian monk Bede made note of several holidays in his writings called De Temporum Ratione. Our friends at Lārhūs Fyrnsida have agreed to share their calendar of holidays, for use by Anglo-Saxon Heathens:

  • Mothers Night (Mōdraniht), an event held on the eve of the winter solstice (Gēola) and is possibly connected to the worship of ancestral mothers.
  • Yule (Gēol), a time of revelry in the face of that adversity, when supernatural activity increases. Gēol presents a natural contrast to Midsumor, which takes place during a more prosperous time of year. Much of the sacrificing done at this time is made to Wōden and/or the dead.
  • Ēaster, a Heathen festival corresponding with modern Easter and the spring equinox. During this period, offerings may be made to Ēastre, goddess of dawn and renewal.
  • Blōstmfrēols, a contemporary floral festival inspired by Floralia, ending the “Ēastre season.”
  • Midsummer (Midsumor), a celebration of the summer solstice. Historically, it was a time dedicated to revelling in the even-tempered and more relaxed atmosphere that Summer brings. Bonfires are typically associated with both ancient and modern Midsumor celebrations.
  • Hærfest, an observance held at the beginning of August celebrating a bountiful harvest season. Traditionally, bread was baked during this period and presented as gifts or used as offerings.
  • Winter Full Moon (Winterfylleð), a celebration of the autumn equinox and the beginning of winter. This observance typically falls on the first full moon in October.

Holidays in continental Heathery

Due to the various denominations of continental Germanic Heathenry, there are many different holiday calendars that we cannot possibly address in this guide. However, it is safe to assume that major festival days followed the agricultural cycle across the continent.

Holidays in Norse Heathenry

According to Ynglinga Saga, there are three high holidays in Norse Heathenry:

  • Yule (Jól), celebrated in modern times as the winter solstice or mid-winter. It is a celebration of the Wild Hunt, led by Odin. It is also a time for making the most serious of oaths.
  • Sigrblót, celebrated in modern times as the spring equinox or mid-spring. Historically, it may have marked the end of winter and the beginning of summer, or it may have been a time to make sacrifices for victory during the upcoming summer raids. Today, it is a time to celebrate or make sacrifices toward other victories instead.
  • Winter Nights (Vetrnætr), celebrated in modern times in mid-October. It is a three-day celebration of the harvest and includes both Dísablót, a sacrifice to honor the female ancestors, and Álfablót, a sacrifice to the god Freyr and the elves (male ancestors). Though Dísablót was a public celebration, according to Austrfararvísur, Álfablót was not celebrated communally but by families in the privacy of their homes. The Swedish holiday Disting, which is a modern incarnation of Dísablót, is celebrated in February instead of October.

Additionally, there are lesser holidays based on region:

  • Þorrablót, which originated in Iceland in 1873 and is based on events that took place in Orkneyinga Saga. In modern times, it is celebrated with an evening dinner, speeches, and poem recitals in honor of the god Thor.
  • Góublót, which originated in the late 18th century and also references Orkneyinga Saga. According to historical sources, this was a celebration of the woman of the house.
  • Midsummer, celebrated in modern times as the summer solstice. It does not celebrate anything specifically, but varies by region and folklore practice.

Calendar dates

The exact calendar dates the ancient Germanic peoples might have used for their holidays are lost to us. To make up for this, many Heathens choose to celebrate their holidays on the equinoxes and solstices. Other Heathens construct their own calendars following a lunar or lunisolar cycle. For example, they may schedule a holiday on the first full moon after the first new moon after each equinox or solstice. Regardless of preference, each hearth or group should choose the dates for their holidays that work best for them.