Celebrations in Springtime
The Spring Evennight, celebrated on March 20/21, is an astronomic event; it marks the halfway point of the sun’s journey from its lowest to its highest position in the sky as seen from earth; this makes day and night of even length and it is traditionally the first day of the Spring season.
Festivals in honor of the sun are the oldest and most common religious celebrations among all peoples following a nature religion; they intuitively understand that without the life-giving powers of this celestial body no life on the planet would be possible.
March 20/21 is also the time when we celebrate the awakening of nature after the dormant winter season; the date does not always coincide with actual fact; spring weather arrives somewhat earlier in the south and later in the north; still, field and barn are beiing readied for new growth; so naturally we honor our fertility gods on this occasion. Our forefathers paid tribute to the goddess Ostara, also known as Eastra and supposedly identical with Frigga. It is of course after her the christian Easter is named.
Egg hunts, colored eggs and egg dishes served at this time are symbolic of the beginning of life. In Germany ancient boulders known as Easter-stones may still be seen; they were decorated with flowers anJ green branches; bonfires were built and young and old danced around them until the early morning hours.
We may not be able to have bonfires; but we can gather to celebrate the season, honor the goddess and rejoice that the blessed sun still shines and that nature is well on her way on another yearly cycle with promises of continued life as it has been lived for untold generations.
In the month of May we have two celebrations; the 10th day of the month (or the second week-end) is designated Tree Planting Day. This is intended to remind us of the ecological problems we’re facing today. Industry and the developers are cutting down trees and bushes and building houses, malls and parking lots instead. This may be convenient to a degree, but for each tree cut down the quality of air is endangered, more people, more traffic and fewer trees mean more pollution.The air we breathe has among its components oxygen and carbon dioxide; in the process of supplying and renewing these gasses, trees and bushes play an important role; apart from their beauty and their fruit, they thus are a prominent part of our ecology.
Far more trees are cut down than are being planted; it would be good to start a tradition of planting one tree or bush every year, especially on such occasions as birth of a baby, a wedding, a special famrily event.
Trees have always been significant among our people and many stories are told about trees and their connection to the life of man. An Egyptian fable going back 3000 years tells of a man who had left his heart on the branches of an acacia tree; when the tree was cut down the rnan died.
Thor’s holy tree is the oak; it is told that St Boniface thougt that by cutting down one such holy oak he could convert the Gerrnanic peoples to christianity but the insulting act only made the Germans more opposed to the new religion. Lithanians kept a sacred fire burnir in honor of Perkunis, the name for their thunder god.
Gaia, the Celtic name for Erda, is honored on this day as our Earth Mother together with Odin who found Rune wisdom under the world tree.
Since it was customary to begin the big festivals on the evening before, we like to reinstate that tradition and begin Beltane on Apr 30 as May Eve. Together with May Day it forms the second round of Spring fertility celebrations. The seed is in the ground, the breeding of stock animals has been done and the rest of the flock has looked after that matter by themselves; it is time to celebrate and pay tribute to the gods and honor them with song and dance.
Nanna, Balder’s wife and mother of Forsetti (god of justice) is ruling May Eve; Frey and Freya are honored on Beltane itself; all symbolize fertility, growth and procreation.
Beltane is a Celtic word; it has been said to originate from the Semitic god Baal but modern linguists find that extremely questionable. It is an ancient celebration and as usual in olden days, a bonfire formed the important part of the festivities. Flower decorations adorned the homes and community buildings. A May pole was raised and streamers in gay colors were hung from the top. Dancing in a ring around the pole and other such traditional folk dances were performed with fun and enjoyment for all.
It should be noted that our religious festivals always were/are life-affirming; no downcast eyes or bowed heads, nor bended knees or sad faces. It was accepted that ‘life is struggle’, but there was no feeling of doom; life was to be lived. The Havanal says – ‘And better the glad than the gloomy man, shall face what before him lies’ and ‘Bravely and gladly men shall live, till the day their death is at hand’.
In June we again begin a major festival the evening before. June 20, the evening before the Summer Sunstead, we have named Midsummer Night’s Eve. Since June traditionally is the month in which many weddings are held, Freya is ruling the day; she is a goddess with many aspects, one of which is to preside over the happiness of new brides.
We don’t know the origin of the dictum that a bride should wear ‘something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue’; but ‘new’ and ‘old’ make sense as a carry-over from the past to the future; ‘borrowed’ may indicate that a new bride to succeed in her marriage may need the help from other women with more experience in home-making; but we suspect that the color blue was chosen because it rhymes with new, unless it is because Odin’s color is blue. However, we suggest that Norsemen-brides also wear something red in honor of and to please the goddess Freya.
The First Day of Summer, or Summer Sunstead, is celebrated an June 21. As you know, this marks the astronomically highest paint of the sun as seen from the northern hemisphere. As the year is not exactly 365 days long the actual moment when the sun reaches its apex may differ slightly.
Although we have the whole summer ahead of us, we are also aware that from now on the arch of the sun will be lower and each day shorter by a few minutes until finally the sun reaches its lowest position at Winter Sunstead (Solstice); and the year and the orbit of the sun start all over again.
The Celebration af summer is a tribute to the sun which means so much to all life on earth, but a little bit of sadness is mixed in because we know we’re headed towards the cold and harsh winter season. However, we want to give the sun a happy sendoff on the six months long journey it now starts, so away with sadness – let’s celebrate with joy and happiness, and honour Baldur and Nanna, the two gods ruling the season.
Baldur is best known from the story about the manner of his death which supposedly is symbolic of the waning of the sun: we therefore tend to forget that the name Baldur means ‘bold’, and that the god was very good at all sports and thus might be seen as a patron of athletics besides being the sun god. Nanna, his wife, is known for her love, especially of children, and together they represent a sunny outlook and gracious understanding of human nature.
The colours of the season is yellow for the sun light and the flowers of summer.
And already our next celebration gets us into harvest time: Lammas is celebrated on Aug 1. It was originally a thanksgiving for the wheat harvest that In Northern Europe fell around that time. It was customary to make loaves from the first grain harvested; and as with so many of our holy days, the christian church also appropriated this to itself and the parishioners were supposed to bring freshly baked loaves to the priest.
But we want to recapture this old pagan tradition and when we celebrate Lammas it would be symbolic to include a communal eating of some grain products such as buns or other baked goods. Since it is a harvest festival, the gods ruling the day are fertility gods – Frey and Freya, and of course we include Gred, Frey’s pretty blond wife.
We might take the opportunity to remind ourselves that it is necessary for a good harvest to have worked the fields well in spring. This means in effect that only when you prepare the soil at the right time and in the right manner can you expect to get a bountiful harvest. And what goes for the fields is also true in all other situations, so let’s give our efforts another upward turn, whatever our present projects are, and inspired by the gods we shall eventually harvest good returns.
The colours of the day are yellow for the season and brown for the fertile soil.
Aug 4 is in America Midsummer. If you look up the word in Webster you’ll find that according to that dictionary it is synonymous with summer solstice. Even Guerber takes Midsummer to mean summer solstice. In USA we prefer to celebrate Midsummer in the middle of the summer season which seems as good a time as any to honour the young gods who will live on after the Great Battle and thus carry on the race of the Aesir gods.
What we celebrate here is then the time after Ragnarok, the new beginning, the gods who will rule the new world, and Gimli, the ‘heavenly abode’ in which they will live. It is the festival where it behooves us to remind ourselves that even as we are getting close to the fall season, we must always have in sight new opportunities, take up new challenges and look for new horizons. In that way we are symbolically fulfilling our part of the promise of Ragnarok that a new and better world will rise out of the ruins of the old, that new life will be born from the old and that a new culture will spring from the present, worn-out Western civilization.
On September 22 we celebrate the Fall Equinox or Evennight. As you can guess, at this time the sun in its orb across the sky hits the half way mark between its highest and lowest position as seen from the earth. But contrary to the Spring Equinox when the planet is on the way up to the highest position, this time it is on the way down to the lowest point which it will reach at Winter Solstice (Sunstead). It is time to celebrate the new season, for on that date we are getting into Fall. The two gods we are honouring are Thor who is the friend of the farmers and his lovely wife Sif with the golden hair. The candles are both red, on the left for the season, on the right for Thor.
On Oct 9 we have two occasions for celebrating. It is our harvest feast, honouring Frey as our most important male fertility god; the colours will be red (left) for the season and on the right, brown, symbolizing the fertile soil and the browning of the fields once the harvest is in the barn.
Oct 9 is also Leif Erickson’s Day. It is well to remember this hearty ancestor of ours who came to the American shores centuries before Columbus. It has only been recently that Leif the Red has been officially acknowledged and not many of our kin know about him, let alone have any form of celebration in his honour. It would be a good tradition to mark the day in some way. Families with children might read some of the stories about the exciting explorations and trade routes of the Vikings, the way they navigated their longboats, and other such interesting tellings.
On December 21 we celebrate the Winter Sunstead (Solstice); you all know the astronomic importance of the date, so let’s slide over that quickly; however, this is also the time when we celebrate what is known as ‘Mothernight’. We have been unable to find anywhere an explanation of how it acquired this designation, but we can speculate –
The whole Yule month is dedicated to Thor; it is also sacred to Frey but this seems to have been of minor significance except for the roast pork which is the traditional meal on this occasion and most certainly came about because the boar is the animal sacred to Frey.
As the day heralded the turn of the sun and the promise of the coming growing season, essential to farmers and to the whole community, it is reasonable to acknowledge Thor as the ruling deity of the season, especially since he is the god and protector of farmers and the workingman. His mother is Erda (Jord/Earth), so it would make sense the true reason for naming this particular evening Mothernight, but it seems applicable and logical, and our forefathers were a rational group of people. Therefore what we in fact are celebrating may be Mother Earth.
Since the mother is the central figure of the family, and we look at the family unit as the natural and essential building block of a healthy society, we have also to include her in this apecial day – particularly in view of the fact that she was also considered important to the farmers who are so closely connected with the earth and its bounty. We don’t know if this actually is chosen this day on which to celebrate the family.
Now, don’t laugh, butwe have learned from the christians! You know that celebrating the Winter Solstice was so ingrained in our tribal traditions that the christians could not hope ever to make our people forget this important festival, so they ‘stole’ it and made it into one of their big holidays. Now we return the favoyr! We have chosen this day on which to hold our Tribal Yule Festival. We are thus taking back what is rightfully ours, for it was a tradiional holiday among the Indo-European tribes long before the chrlstian ‘saviour’ was ever born.
Personally this writer thinks that the New Year ought to begin at the Spring Equinox; but it’ll probably cause too much confusion to make such a change. We will therefore, on December 31, celebrate the Festival of Beauty, Light and Love which certainly is a proper way to begin a new year. The goddess to preside over the festivities is of course beautiful Freya, the goddess of love and fertility in all of nature.
We may also note that Sif, Thor’s wife, is seen as an emblem of the earth and her golden hair symbolizes the rich vegetation the farmers are hoping for during the next growing season.
The theme of Mothernight is the strengthening of family ties and the bonds that hold you and your loved ones in close kinship and communion, therefore Frigga, the goddess of motherhood, is to be honoured.
It is a time to be merry, exchange gifts and put good food on the table. But because of the commercialism that is permeating the christian celebrations let us stress that the gifts are not the most important part of the occasion; of course we want to gladden the hearts of our loved ones, but it should be kept in mind that it is the show of love and concern for each member within the family circle that tie us together as a kindred; this is the real message of Yule.
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