Yule or Yuletide (“Yule time”) is a festival observed by the historical Germanic peoples. Scholars have connected the celebration to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin, and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht. It later underwent Christianised reformulation resulting in the term Christmastide.
Terms with an etymological equivalent to Yule are used in the Nordic countries for Christmas with its religious rites, but also for the holidays of this season. Today Yule is also used to a lesser extent in the English-speaking world as a synonym for Christmas. Present day Christmas customs and traditions such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from pagan Yule. Today the event is celebrated in Heathenry and some other forms of Modern Paganism.
Information Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule
Yule is the most important holiday of the year. Everyone is familiar with the shortness of the deep winter days, but in the Scandinavian countries this is of even greater importance. At the Yuletide there is almost no sunlight at all, and the climate would have people bound in their homes waiting for the return of Spring.
Yule is a long festival, traditionally held to be 12 days or more. After Yule the days began to get longer and the festival represented the breaking of the heart of winter and the beginning of the new year. Yule was the holiday of either Thor or Frey, although there is no reason not to honor both Gods in modern practice.
Frey is the God of fertility and farming and was honored at Yule in the hopes that his time would soon return. Frey is also an important God at this time as shown in the myth “The Wooing of Gerd.” Gerd is Frey’s wife, and she was once a frost giant. Frey had seen her while he was seated on Odin’s High Seat, and was utterly taken by her, but she would not yield until Skirnir, Frey’s messenger or perhaps Frey in disguise, threatened her with an eternity of cold. In this way, Frey brings back the summer times by wooing a daughter of cold and frost. His love for her brings warmth to her heart and to the land.
Thor’s position at Yule is a bit more savage. He is the sworn enemy of the Frost Giants and Jotnar who rule the winter months, and as such is honored as the God who’s actions fight off these creatures and bring back the spring.
Our kindred also honors Sunna, the Sun Goddess, at Yule. However, we feel she is more important at Midsummer, when she is at her height.
The most important symbols of Yule are still with us today. Most of the supposedly secular customs of Christmas are actually Pagan in origin. Evergreen trees and holly which remained green throughout the long nights and cold were a promise that spring would once again return to the land. These symbols may also have been a connection to the nature spirits who have sway over the return of the warm days. The modern conception of Santa Claus as an elf, for whom offerings of milk and cookies are left, is possibly a modern continuation of leaving offerings for the Alvar and other nature spirits. The idea of children staying up all night in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Santa Claus may be a remnant of people staying awake to mark the long night and remind the sun to return. (In the latter case it’s considered an adequate substitution to leave a candle going all night to light the way for the returning sun.)
Yule is a weeks long festival, not just a single holiday. The Yule season begins on the solstice, which is the Mother Night of Yule, and ends with Twelfth Night/New Years. As a point of interest, January seventh is St. Distaff’s day, which Nigel Pennic has suggested may have been a day sacred to Frigg, whose symbol is the distaff.
While one might expect a rather dour theme to a holiday held in the darkness and cold, Yule is a time of feasting and gladness.
The most important custom at Yule for modern Pagans is the swearing of Yule oaths. Our kindred does this at Twelfth Night (aka New Years Eve). We hold a sumbel and we keep the Yule wreath handy for anyone who wishes to swear an oath for the coming year.
There are simply so many different Yule customs, both ancient and modern, that one has almost limitless possibilities even when staying within Scandanavian and Germanic customs. In modern practice one might honor Sunna on the Mother Night, then hold a blot a few days later to Thor, a feast for New Years day which is shared with the house and land spirits, and then finish on Twelfth Night with a ritual to Frey, whose time is then officially beginning.
Source Link: http://www.ravenkindred.com/RBHolidays.html
On this day, in Asatru many heathens will honor the beings of fertility and spring, such as Frey, Nerthus, Jord, the Goddess Ostara, the Ancestors and vaettir of the land, the wights. To Frigg and Freya, many of the divine are honored at this time, for there is much to give thanks for, and be mindful of. We give thanks and honor to these beings of life and fertility, we thank them for the gifts that they give us, and we ask them to continue to do so.
It is however, important to remember that we are still in Winter, and the dark tendrils of the cold are still tight on the land. Some darker aspects of the divine are also appropriately honored, such as Odin, with his many aspects, giving Odin thanks is never a bad thing.
Charming of the Plow is a time of fertility, thanks, and hope for the coming spring. It is a time to give thanks to the land for keeping us during the winter, the earth, the divine, and the spirits for the fertility that is to come in the spring. Charming of the Plow is an important holiday.
mbolc or Imbolg (/ɪˈmɒlɡ/ i-MOLG), also called (Saint) Brigid’s Day (Irish: Lá Fhéile Bríde, Scottish Gaelic: Là Fhèill Brìghde, Manx: Laa’l Breeshey), is a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of spring. Most commonly it is held on 1/2 February, or about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals—along with Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain—and corresponds to the Welsh Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau. For Christians, especially in Ireland, it is the feast day of Saint Brigid.
Imbolc is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and there is evidence it has been an important date since ancient times. It is believed that it was originally a pagan festival associated with the goddess Brigid (goddess of fertility) and that it was Christianized as a festival of Saint Brigid, who is thought to be a Christianization of the goddess. At Imbolc, Brigid’s crosses were made and a doll-like figure of Brigid, called a Brídeóg, would be paraded from house-to-house. Brigid was said to visit one’s home at Imbolc. To receive her blessings, people would make a bed for Brigid and leave her food and drink, while items of clothing would be left outside for her to bless. Brigid was also invoked to protect homes and livestock. Special feasts were had, holy wells were visited and it was also a time for divination.
Although many of its customs died out in the 20th century, it is still observed and in some places it has been revived as a cultural event. Since the latter 20th century, Celtic neopagansand Wiccans have observed Imbolc as a religious holiday.
Source Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imbolc
It’s time once again for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count. Come try your hand at bird watching while participating in a global event to help track bird migrations. These counts help scientist determine the health, populations, and movement patterns of birds around the world. Here is how to participate:
- Go to Cornell Lab’s eBird website for more information.
- Their Instructions are here: http://gbbc.birdcount.org/about/
- Or go to the Audubon’s website for similar information.
I participated last year and was a fun way to learn more about bird species in your area. No fancy equipment needed. Just grab a pen and paper and start counting.
Ēostre or Ostara (Old English: Ēastre [æːɑstre], Northumbrian dialect Ēostre [eːostre]; Old High German: *Ôstara ) is a Germanic goddess who, by way of the Germanic month bearing her name (Northumbrian: Ēosturmōnaþ; West Saxon: Ēastermōnaþ; Old High German: Ôstarmânoth), is the namesake of the festival of Easter in some languages. Ēostre is attested solely by Bede in his 8th-century work The Reckoning of Time, where Bede states that during Ēosturmōnaþ (the equivalent of April), pagan Anglo-Saxons had held feasts in Ēostre’s honor, but that this tradition had died out by his time, replaced by the Christian Paschal month, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.
By way of linguistic reconstruction, the matter of a goddess called *Austrō in the Proto-Germanic language has been examined in detail since the foundation of Germanic philology in the 19th century by scholar Jacob Grimm and others. As the Germanic languages descend from Proto-Indo-European (PIE), historical linguists have traced the name to a Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn *H₂ewsṓs (→ *Ausṓs), from which descends the Common Germanic divinity from whom Ēostre and Ostara are held to descend. Additionally, scholars have linked the goddess’s name to a variety of Germanic personal names, a series of location names (toponyms) in England, and, discovered in 1958, over 150 inscriptions from the 2nd century CE referring to the matronae Austriahenae.
Theories connecting Ēostre with records of Germanic Easter customs, including hares and eggs, have been proposed. Particularly prior to the discovery of the matronae Austriahenae and further developments in Indo-European studies, debate has occurred among some scholars about whether or not the goddess was an invention of Bede. Ēostre and Ostara are sometimes referenced in modern popular culture and are venerated in some forms of Germanic neopaganism.
Source Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%92ostre
Summer Finding is also known to many groups as Ostara, the holiday sacred to the Goddess for whom the modern Easter is named. She is a fertility Goddess and her symbols are the hare and the egg. She was an important Goddess of spring to the ancient Saxons, but we know little else of her other than this. Some have suggested that Ostara is merely an alternate name for Frigg or Freya, but neither of these Goddesses seem to have quite the same fertility function as Ostara does. Frigg seems too “high class” to be associated with such an earthy festival and Freya’s form of fertility is more based on eroticism than reproduction.
The obvious folk tradition at this time of year involves eggs. These were colored as they are today, but then they were buried, or more appropriately, planted in the earth. Some have suggested that the act was purely magical, the fertility of the eggs would then be transferred from the animal realm to the plant realm and would increase the prosperity of the harvest. It’s also possible that they were left as an offering to the alvar and the spirits of the plants.
In any case a blot should be prepared to the Goddess of Spring, however one wishes to honor her, and also to the spirits of the land.
Source Link: http://www.ravenkindred.com/RBHolidays.html
Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.
On Earth Day 2016, the landmark Paris Agreement was signed by the United States, China, and some 120 other countries. This signing satisfied a key requirement for the entry into force of the historic draft climate protection treaty adopted by consensus of the 195 nations present at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.
In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to first be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of nature’s equipoise was later sanctioned in a proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom award in recognition of his work. While this April 22 Earth Day was focused on the United States, an organization launched by Denis Hayes, who was the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international in 1990 and organized events in 141 nations.
Numerous communities celebrate Earth Week, an entire week of activities focused on the environmental issues that the world faces. In 2017, the March for Science occurred on Earth Day (April 22, 2017) and was followed by the People’s Climate Mobilization (April 29, 2017).
Information Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Day
May Day is a public holiday usually celebrated on May 1. It is an ancient northern hemisphere spring festival and a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. Dances, singing, and cake are usually part of the festivities. In the late 19th century, May Day was chosen as the date for International Workers’ Day by the Socialists and Communists of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago. International Workers’ Day may also be referred to as “May Day”, but it is a different celebration from the traditional May Day.
The earliest May Day celebrations appeared with the Floralia, festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, held on April 27 during the Roman Republic era, and with the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries. It is also associated with the Gaelic Beltane, most commonly held on April 30. The day was a traditional summer holiday in many European pagan cultures. While February 1 was the first day of spring, May 1 was the first day of summer; hence, the summer solstice on June 25 (now June 21) was Midsummer.
As Europe became Christianised, the pagan holidays lost their religious character and May Day changed into a popular secular celebration. A significant celebration of May Day occurs in Germany where it is one of several days on which St. Walburga, credited with bringing Christianity to Germany, is celebrated. The secular versions of May Day, observed in Europe and North America, may be best known for their traditions of dancing around the maypole and crowning the Queen of May. Fading in popularity since the late 20th century is the giving of “May baskets,” small baskets of sweets or flowers, usually left anonymously on neighbours’ doorsteps.
Since the 18th century, many Roman Catholics have observed May – and May Day – with various May devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary In works of art, school skits, and so forth, Mary’s head will often be adorned with flowers in a May crowning. May 1 is also one of two feast days of the Catholic patron saint of workers St Joseph the Worker, a carpenter, husband to Mother Mary, and surrogate father of Jesus. Replacing another feast to St. Joseph, this date was chosen by Pope Pius XII in 1955 as a counterpoint to the communist International Workers Day celebrations on May Day.
Source Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Day#Germany
Beltane (/ˈbɛl.teɪn/) is the anglicised name for the Gaelic May Day festival. Most commonly it is held on 1 May, or about halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. In Irish the name for the festival day is Lá Bealtaine ([l̪ˠaː ˈbʲal̪ˠt̪ˠənʲə]), in Scottish Gaelic Là Bealltainn([l̪ˠa: ˈpjaul̪ˠt̪ˠɪɲ]) and in Manx Gaelic Laa Boaltinn/Boaldyn. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals—along with Samhain, Imbolc and Lughnasadh—and is similar to the Welsh Calan Mai.
Beltane is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature, and it is associated with important events in Irish mythology. It marked the beginning of summer and was when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth. Special bonfires were kindled, and their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers. The people and their cattle would walk around the bonfire or between two bonfires, and sometimes leap over the flames or embers. All household fires would be doused and then re-lit from the Beltane bonfire. These gatherings would be accompanied by a feast, and some of the food and drink would be offered to the aos sí. Doors, windows, byres and the cattle themselves would be decorated with yellow May flowers, perhaps because they evoked fire. In parts of Ireland, people would make a May Bush: a thorn bush decorated with flowers, ribbons and bright shells. Holy wells were also visited, while Beltane dew was thought to bring beauty and maintain youthfulness. Many of these customs were part of May Day or Midsummer festivals in other parts of Great Britain and Europe.
Beltane celebrations had largely died out by the mid-20th century, although some of its customs continued and in some places it has been revived as a cultural event. Since the late 20th century, Celtic neopagans and Wiccans have observed Beltane, or something based on it, as a religious holiday. Neopagans in the Southern Hemisphere often celebrate Beltane at the other end of the year (around 1 November).
Source Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beltane
A leprechaun (Irish: leipreachán/luchorpán) is a type of fairy of the Aos Sí in Irish folklore. They are usually depicted as little bearded men, wearing a coat and hat, who partake in mischief. They are solitary creatures who spend their time making and mending shoes and have a hidden pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If captured by a human, they often grant three wishes in exchange for their freedom.[not verified in body] Like other Irish fairies, leprechauns may be derived from the Tuatha Dé Danann. Leprechaun-like creatures rarely appear in Irish mythology and only became prominent in later folklore.
Source Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leprechaun
The summer solstice was second only to Yule in importance to the ancient Northmen. Some groups mark this day as sacred to Balder, but we disagree with this. While Balder can be seen as a dying and resurrected Sun God, in the mythology we are most familiar with, he does not return to life until Ragnarok and it seems like “bad karma” to symbolically kill the sun when you know Baldr doesn’t come back until the end of the world. Instead, we mark this day as sacred to the Goddess Sunna, who is literally the sun.
One idea for midsummer is to remain awake all night and mark the shortest night of the year, then at sunrise to perform a “Greeting of Sunna” and a blot to her.
Another midsummer custom is the rolling of a flaming wagon wheel down a hill to mark the turning of the wheel of the year. If fire would otherwise be a hazard, one could parade a wheel covered with candles for similar effect. It is also a time for general merriment and in the Scandinavian countries many of what we know as the traditional May Day rituals such as May Poles and Morris Dances were celebrated at Midsummer rather than in May.
In our area Midsummer occurs during a large local Pagan festival, and we have gone all out in making it a major holiday with blot, sumbel, feasting and drinking. We are currently in the process of constructing a “sun ship” which, with sails of copper reflecting the light from small torches, represents Sunna will be brought forth at dawning and dusk.
Source Link: http://www.ravenkindred.com/RBHolidays.html
Midsummer, also known as Summer Solstice, marks the height of the sun’s power and the time of year when elongated days stretch out like boundless, curving paths into the mysterious future. Each morning begins with raucous, pre-dawn bird songs, enticing an early departure from slumberland and the instinctive urge to amble out to the misty patio to blearily breathe in the musky, sweet air gently moving across the bay. The seeds of spring have been sown, the rich soil now bursting with fresh life beginning to show signs of promising yields. These vibrations of mother earth are so intoxicatingly tangible during this season, and it delights to have the scent of dewy leaves or the way the sunlight catches on the coral petal of a rose resonate with memories from days long gone by. I can feel the velvety skin of my grandmother’s hand on my palm, hear a pocket of jangling change and grandpa singing, “That’s the spirit!” Faint whispers from the ancestors reminding me to give thanks for the life giving force of the sun and pay homage to the many generations that diligently farmed the land, year after year, spanning back for centuries and making my future existence possible.
As in Denmark, Sankthansaften is celebrated on June 23 in Norway. The day is also called Jonsok, which means “John’s wake”, important in Roman Catholic times with pilgrimages to churches and holy springs. For instance, up until 1840, there was a pilgrimage to the Røldal Stave Church in Røldal(southwest Norway) whose crucifix was said to have healing powers. Today, however, Sankthansaften is largely regarded as a secular or even pre-Christian event.
In most places, the main event is the burning of a large bonfire. In Western Norway, a custom of arranging mock weddings, both between adults and between children, is still kept alive. The wedding was meant to symbolize the blossoming of new life. Such weddings are known to have taken place in the 1800s, but the custom is believed to be older.
It is also said that, if a girl puts flowers under her pillow that night, she will dream of her future husband.
Source Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midsummer#Norway
Fairy Islands’ from the book Elves and Fairies 1916 by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite
History of Fairy Day
Fairies have existed in just about every culture over the world, though they may have been called by different names. What they have in common, no matter where you go, is that they are spirits that inhabit the world around us and often operate by strange and often odd laws. That’s about where the similarities end, and where the amazingly diverse concepts that are the fae begin.
We’ve all heard of the winged fairies that flit around flowers and are always drawn like butterfly winged cherubs of slight form, but did you know that Dwarves and Gnomes are also part of the fae family? These creatures were common among the Germanic folk, and especially those who worked in mines and mountains. Knockers were a form of fairy that lived in mines and would ‘knock’ to warn miners of pending cave-ins and danger, hence their name.
The red-hatted gnomes that occupy so many people’s gardens were fashioned after creatures from the far north. These quiet and unassuming creatures were part of the dark northern forests and spent their time living near the homes of humans, which they’d sometimes help out. There’s even fae that lives in the oceans like the Irish Selkie, dark of hair and eye, these creatures were able to turn into humans. Turn into humans we say? Yes! They started lives as seals and would take off their skin when they came ashore and take the form of beautiful women. If one were lucky enough to steal their skin they’d be able to take a Selkie wife, so long as they didn’t let the skin be found!”
Source Link: https://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/fairy-day/