Posts filed under ‘Holidays’
While in Ireland the harvest is celebrated at Lunasa, harvest customs come later in Scotland.
Historical Info from Chronicle of Celtic Folk Customs by Brian Day
On the 14th or the 21st- the Autumnal Equinox- Nutting Day is observed- the day “the Devil goes a-nutting” Young people gather nuts, some avoid doing so lest the Devil abduct them! Nuts are associated with fertility so some girls avoid gathering them so as not to get pregnant. It is also the end of the blackberry picking season- it’s believed that when the archangel Michael kicked the Devil out of heaven, he landed in bramble bush. Mold found on blackberries is his spit.
The main September harvest celebration is on the 28th- Michaelmas Eve- bonfires are lit, roast lamb is eaten. In Scotland Michael is the patron of fishermen and horsemen. Struan Micheil is traditionally made and eaten- a cake made of sheep’s milk, eggs, butter and grain, decorated with a cross. A piece is thrown on the fire to placate the Devil.
the 29th- Michaelmas Day
Irish customs for Michaelmas come from the English- giving geese as gifts, even to the poor, plucking their down for pillows, apple picking, cider-making and hunting season begins and fishing ends.
In Scotland, wild carrots are dug up and given as gifts. Another tradition is to visit the graves of relatives on horseback- this is called circuiting. Horse-racing and other athletic events take place.
La Fheill Michaeil by Tairis
Celebrating La Fheill Michaeil by Tairis
Associated Deities & Myths
Lugh (equated with St Michael)
Macha- horse-racing association
Mid-Autumn Rite by Ozark Pagan Mamma
The Autumnal Equinox- September 20-21st is celebrated under various names in Heathenry
In Urglaawe it is called Erntfescht– Harvest festival, called Harvest Home in English. Dunner (Thor) Siwwa (Sif) and Idunna are honored. September 28th is the goddess Zisa’s feast day (Zisasege) and for practicality this is often combined with Erntfescht.
Hostblot (umlaut over o) in Swedish, Haustblot in Icelandic, the name means “autumn sacrifice”
Winter Finding is a name used in North American Heathenry for the fall equinox. Not to be confused with Winter Nights!
Alvablot in Swedish or Alfablot in Old Norse (date varies from October-November in Scandinavia & Iceland) A time to make offerings to the alfar or elves- male ancestors (the female version being Disablot) or specifically spirits of grave mounds. Sometimes this is observed as part of Winter Nights.
Winter Nights- Vetnaetr in Icelandic This can be celebrated anywhere from Oct 19th to the 26th of October, due to Neo-Pagan influence sometimes it is on the 31st of October, or 1st of November. It can also be a 3 night festival. A time for honoring ancestors and preparing for winter.
Allelieweziel– October 31st is celebrated in Urglaawe, as Frau Holle begins the Wild Hunt, gathering lost souls for reincarnation. Between Erntfescht and Allelieweziel, the Butzemann or activated scarecrow is burned.
Ewicher Yeeger– the Eternal Hunter, is a deity unique to Urglaawe. He is identified with Holler, the Continental German name for Ullr. Around November 15, Ewicher Yeeger rails against King Frost and his army of Frost giants, to give Holle more time to gather souls.
November 11th is Remembrance Day observing the end of World War I in the British Commonwealth, and Veteran’s Day (honoring both alive and dead veterans) in the United States. Heathens in these countries sometimes will hold a blot/sumbel to honor the military dead- sometimes calling it Einherjar Day– the name referring to Odin’s warriors who go to Valhalla. I leave it to the individual or group whether it’s appropriate use that label for all who have died in various wars- your theology/cosmology may vary.
Another more German folk custom-y holiday (observed in many European countries) that falls on the same day is Martinmas, or Martinsdag. Obviously, yes a Christian holiday, but I think it has re-Heathenizing potential. Children carry lanterns in processions behind a man dressed as St Martin riding on a white horse. A feast of goose is traditional, as are bonfires. Here’s Beth’s Martinmas post from last year.
Lunastal– Tairis article, has separate sections on Scotland and Ireland
Lughnasa, Festival of the Harvest by Morgan Daimler
How to Celebrate
Celebrating Lunastal– Tairis article, has separate sections on Scotland and Ireland
Celebrating Lughnasa– Together or Alone by Morgan Daimler
Deities & Myths Related to Lunasa (this will be links to other resource pages)
A Lughnasadh Rite by Ozark Pagan Mamma
A Celtic-Norse Loaf-Fest Blot by Ozark Pagan Mamma
ADF Lughnasad by Ceisiwr Serith
Honoring Lugus & his relatives by PSVL
Morning Lunasa Prayer adapted by Morgan Daimler from Reap Blessing #90 in the Carmina Gadelica
Lunasa Prayer– adapted by Morgan Daimler from Reap Blessing #89 in the Carmina Gadelica
Crafts & Recipes
3 Easy Lunasa Crafts by Ozark Pagan Mamma
Kids’ Activities for Lunasa/Lammas/Freyfaxi by Ozark Pagan Mamma
Lunasa Music Playlist by Ozark Pagan Mamma
A Dream of Lughnasa by Morgan Daimler
As I commented before, when looking up information about Heathen holidays, especially with American-based books and websites, it tends to be a big Pan-Germanic mix- some Icelandic, some Anglo-Saxon and some modern American inventions like Einherjar and Vali’s Day. Then there are holidays based on Christian-era folk traditions, which may or may not have pre-Christian roots, but as my readers know, I’m more of a fan of continuing comparatively recent folk traditions that we can share with non-Pagan/Heathen members of various cultures. In the end, I’ll likely end up blending things together from more than one tradition, but I want to know where things come from to begin with! My suggestion is celebrate whatever is being harvested- in my area, it tends to be cucumbers and tomatoes and in July the blackberries in my front yard ripen.
Observance- Cultural Origin- Customs
Lokabrenna- July as month to honor Loki- American Heathen + Global Online Lokean community, with inspiration from later Scandinavian folk beliefs If you are into astronomy (or astrology for that matter) the folk beliefs connect Loki to the rising of Sirius and the hot “dog days” of summer, check when Sirius is actually rising- this could fall in July or August.
1st or 2nd of August- Lammas, Loafmass, Hlaefmaesse– English, Anglo-Saxon revivalist
Based on English Christian customs of baking loaves of bread made from the first wheat harvested and offering them to the Church- a festival of first fruits. More info- Wyrt Wizard, Lammas Eve. The English folk song “John Barleycorn” is a popular one to sing, and may be associated with Frey himself or his servant, Byggvir (meaning barley). Some Heathens, particular Vanatru see Lammas as the time when Frey sacrifices himself for the land and people, probably a Wiccan or Neo-Pagan influence.
“Come Hláftíd (Loaf-Tide) Béowa, the god of barley, and his bride, Béole “the little bee”, are given worship. The “first fruits of the harvest”, bread and beer, brewed of barley and honey, are offered to them, that they might beward the speedsome harvest.”- Ealdrice Haedengyld
1st or 2nd of August Freyfaxi– Icelandic name- American Heathen usage
It’s unclear to me whether this festival was celebrated in pre-Christian Scandinavia or Iceland. The name for this holiday seems to come from the Icelandic Hrafnknel’s saga and Vatnesdaela saga, both feature a man who was a Freysgodhi (priest of Frey) who named his horse Freyfaxi. There are also horse associations (horse racing in particular) with Lunasa, the Gaelic festival around the same time. So to me this one “clicks” with the intermixing of the Norse with the Scots and Irish.
Chapter on Loaf-fest/Freyfaxi in Our Troth
Many connect the harvest with the story of Loki cutting off Sif’s hair. A ritual drama can be acted out, or the story can be told, sung or recited in poetic form. Making corn dollies as part of a “first sheaf” rite is also an option- the Last sheaf tends to be observed in October/November.
Hoietfescht– Urglaawe- Festival of the Hay-time, Hoiet is the Deitsch name for July, and this festival falls either the last week of July or the first week of August. Other names include Sommermit or Corn Boils. At this time, the Wanes (Vanir) are honored for the gifts of the harvest- Frey, Freyja and Njord
Hoietfeshct by Rob Lusch p. 10, Hollerbier Haven: A Journal of Traditional Deitsch Wisdom Vol. 3, Issue 2
In theory, I believe there isn’t a strict separation between the holy and the mundane- to some degree there is, but the lines are blurry as with everything spiritual. I have been reading thoughts lately by Sannion, Galina and other folks about polytheistic devotion vs. social/political activism and where those lines should be drawn. I’m still sorting my thoughts out on this- as readers of this blog know, I see a commitment to social justice as a part of my spirituality. But I also strongly believe in separation of church and state, and don’t want one particular political dogma to be enforced in any of my religious groups. I will admit, I’m mostly an armchair philosophical polytheist with agnostic leanings (or vice versa?) and I keep meaning to motivate myself to become more spiritually active in spite of my doubts and my Sunday Christian background…it’s complicated.
Most of the community work I do is not explicitly religious- the groups I participate in may include Pagans, but of course we aren’t necessarily the same type of Pagan and we aren’t going to have prayers smack dab in the middle of a meeting! Being in a secular environment most of the time makes it difficult to stay in a spiritual frame of mind- I feel the need to go thru some type of paradigm shift!
But there are ways to incorporate your beliefs and even “sneak in” practices in secular settings without violating anyone else’s rights.
Pray, Meditate, Make an Offering before leaving to attend an event. You can also say a prayer- silently or aloud in some situations.
Arts & Music– if you are involved in planning an event that includes art and music, try to include themes, styles and topics that fit with your tradition or path but also fit with the mission and purpose of the event. There are tons of things that to me, have some type of spiritual association, that to other people will just seem like good music and art!
Nature– engaging with local elements of nature in some way and encourage eco-friendly practices (it could even be something as simple as bringing a potted plant as a centerpiece for a buffet) Think about the nature spirits, Gaia etc. as you do so.
Relating to People– practice values like hospitality in your relationships with others
Remembering History & Ancestors– Learn about the history of the organization, event, business, neighborhood, city etc. that you are working with. Incorporate positive aspects of that knowledge into your participation. Take into account negative aspects as you work for change/improvement and consider potential ripple effects on yourself and your community. (Wyrd/orlog if you are Heathen)
These are kind of vague, I realize but I am brainstorming here- I will work on making some specific suggestions by using examples of events that I attend myself in another post.
One holiday that I’ve often wondered “How does that work in a UU context?” is Easter. I mean, at Christmas time we can talk about the birth of Jesus, and winter solstice traditions and such, and yes there are pagany springy trappings that go with Easter. But it seems much more unavoidably, traditionally theologically Christian, focused on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus,
I was told that one traditional Unitarian view of Easter was a focus on the “resurrection of community”.I guess in a seasonal context that could make sense, since in winter people tend to be more isolated and keep to themselves, while we come out and see our neighbors as spring rolls around. However, this was a theological idea from presumably a much warmer place, so my own interpretation wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense!
On this post here, it’s discussed that in some places, particular the southwestern U.S. Easter is combined with Flower Communion at U.U. churches. “Flower Communion was a ritual developed by Norbert Čapek as a ritual specifically for Unitarians. He chose to celebrate the diversity of humanity through flowers as no two flowers are exactly alike. The first Flower communion was held in June of 1923 in Prague just before the summer holidays. According to his wife, Maja Čapek, the ritual was to be more secular in its associations so as to be the most inclusive of all people, regardless of creed. An important aspect that would grow over time as their neighboring country of Germany grew in power and intolerance of Jews and those of political differences grew deeper. She stated in a letter that conflating it with Easter would probably not have met Norbert’s approval and an alternative date to June could be to commemorate the last Sunday that he preached which was March 23 before being arrested and subsequently killed by the Nazis in Dachau concentration camp. These meanings of diversity and acceptance found in the Flower Communion have nothing to do with Easter. I believe the two should be kept separate so that the fullness of each message can be contemplated.”
I completely agree that the two should be separate! Spring Equinox of course, may be celebrated in addition to Easter by U.U. Pagans and earthy humanists- Nowruz, the Persian New Year is also celebrated on the same day. Personally I find the themes of Passover- liberation from slavery and oppression- to be more relevant than Easter. And indeed I do celebrate Passover if one of my Jewish friends invites me to do so. But otherwise, it is not really my holiday. A couple years ago I went to Minicon, a science fiction convention that is held in the Twin Cities during Easter weekend. One of the coolest people I met there was an older Jewish lady from New York. She shared with me, an anecdote- a conversation she had with African-American friends. She told them- you folks need your own Passover! Once again, such a holiday wouldn’t be mine to create or celebrate. A while ago while celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, and watching all the inaccurate memes posted by my fellow Pagans, I thought about how disconnected St Pat’s is from actual Irish history. It seems like we celebrate Irishness in this rather shallow way without really contemplating what our ancestors (spiritual or physical) went through to get to this country. So maybe we also need an Irish-American equivalent of Passover. There are also various historical events we could be commemorating, such as the Easter Rising. Once again, I feel pretty darn ignorant about Irish history!
We don’t have evidence that Ye Olde Celts celebrated the spring equinox. But there are always options, if you do want to celebrate it, or a holiday near that time.
In Scottish folk tradition, Latha na Caillich (Day of the Old Woman) is observed on March 25th. To be clear, there are multiple spirits referred to as an Cailleach in Scottish lore, and Cailleach Bheur shows up in Irish lore. So they should be referred to as nan Cailleachan, plural, or if you are familiar with one of them from a particular locality, be clear about which Lady you are calling on!
La na Caillich– essay on Tairis
Latha na Cailiche– Brian Walsh
An Cailleach Bhearra– on Tairis blog, about her possible Irish connections to the spring equinox
Naomi J has also done a lot of research and devotional work with Baoi/an Cailleach Bhearra, the goddess of the Beara peninsula in Ireland. 30 Days of Deity Devotion posts.
Some polytheist alternatives to St. Patrick’s Day have been proposed-
Hero feast for Cu Chulainn– PSVL (pronounced cuh hull-linn) Look thru the Cu Chulainn tag for further ideas.
My personal idea is to honor the sovereignty goddesses Eriu, Banba and Fodla, specifically Eriu, for whom Eire is named.
Ruadhan, a Boetian polytheist of British & Irish descent, honors Britannia & Hibernia, the Roman national personifications of Britain and Ireland. Though they have been adopted by the natives and Hibernia is also various called Eriu, Kathleen ni Houlihan etc. He even wrote a myth explaining their origins.
In another post he notes: “One thing that I regret not posting about this year is my ritual and prayer for my re-envisioning of Shrove Tuesday as Pancake Feast of Britannia and St. Patrick’s Day as Bacon & Cabbage Feast of Hibernia.” I’m always interested in seeing creative polytheist alternatives to St. Patrick’s Day- or for that matter interesting spiritual takes on any secular holiday. (just yoinked that from my post on Tutelary Goddesses)
and here’s PSVL’s thoughts on Hibernia
Other people honor deities and spirits they associate with this time of year, if it’s more springy in your area, that might be Angus Mac Og and his swan-maiden lover, Caer Ibormeith.