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Posts Tagged ‘harvest home’

I’ve long thought about writing up the holidays that I celebrate, as an Anglo-Saxon pagan druid with a strong English folk bent. So here you go – the wheel of the year, with the names I call each holiday and what I do primarily to celebrate each one.

  • Yule – greenery, lights, candles, and 12 days of preparation to begin the new year
  • Candlemas – the celebration of the returning light. Buying and preparing candles, cleaning oil lamps, blessing the home with light.
  • Eostara – the celebration of the dawn, the radiant dawn maiden Eostre, and the balancing towards the growing light of the year. Sometimes just “Spring Equinox”
  • May Day – For summer is a comin’ in and winter’s gone away-oh. Celebration of summer, and also of the first harvests of vegetables in Texas, planted back in February.
  • Midsummer – bonfires, grilling, burned herbs for protection, and protection against hurricanes and tropical storms. Purification by fire, dawn and sunset rituals.
  • Lammas – John Barleycorn, the sacrifice of Ing, the first grain harvest. Loaves baked and sacrificed for the blessings of the harvest for the whole season. Sacrifice – personal and as a group – made to ensure the prosperity of the group.
  • Harvest Home – very much a mini-Thanksgiving, this is the height of the harvest, and the middle of the second growing season in Texas. Naming a harvest queen, drawing her around in a wagon to bless the town. The “holy month” of the harvest.
  • Hallows – Ancestor’s night, the welcoming in of winter, the blood harvest and final sacrifice. Celebration of prosperity (hopefully) and of a year well spent. Entering into a liminal time between Hallows and Yule in preparation for beginning the cycle again.

I should note that a lot of this calendar is UPG and modern Neopaganism derived, just with an English-folk flavor to it. It works for me, and makes me feel connected to the ancestors of spirit from whom I draw my practice.

I also observe the Anglo-Saxon Lunar Months, which begin on the new moon – the true new moon, not the dark moon (so 2-3 days after the actual “dark moon”, when the first crescent is visible in the sky). You can find out when those dates are here.

This lunar calendar is given to us by Bede, so your mileage may vary as to how accurate it is, but I find it meshes well with the 8 holidays I celebrate above:

January, Bede explained, corresponds to an Anglo-Saxon month known as Æftera Geola, or “After Yule”—the month, quite literally, after Christmas.

February was Sōlmōnath, a name that apparently derived from an Old English word for wet sand or mud, sōl; according to Bede, it meant “the month of cakes,” when ritual offerings of savory cakes and loaves of bread would be made to ensure a good year’s harvest. The connection between Old English mud and Bede’s “month of cakes” has long confused scholars of Old English, with some claiming that Bede could even have gotten the name wrong—but it’s plausible that the name Sōlmōnath might have referred to the cakes’ sandy, gritty texture.

March was Hrēðmonath to the ancient Anglo-Saxons, and was named in honor of a little-known pagan fertility goddess named Hreða, or Rheda. Her name eventually became Lide in some southern dialects of English, and the name Lide or Lide-month was still being used locally in parts of southwest England until as recently as the 19th century.

April corresponds to the Anglo-Saxon Eostremonath, which took its name from another mysterious pagan deity named Eostre. She is thought to have been a goddess of the dawn who was honored with a festival around the time of the spring equinox, which, according to some accounts, eventually morphed into our festival of Easter. Oddly, no account of Eostre is recorded anywhere else outside of Bede’s writings, casting some doubt on the reliability of his account—but as the Oxford English Dictionary explains, “it seems unlikely that Bede would have invented a fictitious pagan festival in order to account for a Christian one.”

May was Thrimilce, or “the month of three milkings,” when livestock were often so well fed on fresh spring grass that they could be milked three times a day.

June and July were together known as Liða, an Old English word meaning “mild” or “gentle,” which referred to the period of warm, seasonable weather either side of Midsummer. To differentiate between the two, June was sometimes known as Ærraliða, or “before-mild,” and July was Æfteraliða, or “after-mild;” in some years a “leap month” was added to the calendar at the height of the summer, which was Thriliða, or the “third-mild.”

August was Weodmonath or the “plant month.”

After that came September, or Hāligmonath, meaning “holy month,” when celebrations and religious festivals would be held to celebrate a successful summer’s crop.
October was Winterfylleth, or the “winter full moon,” because, as Bede explained, winter was said to begin on the first full moon in October.

November was Blōtmonath, or “the month of blood sacrifices.” No one is quite sure what the purpose of this late autumnal sacrifice would have been, but it’s likely that any older or infirm livestock that seemed unlikely to see out bad weather ahead would be killed both as a stockpile of food, and as an offering for a safe and mild winter.

And December, finally, was Ærra Geola or the month “before Yule,” after which Æftera Geola would come round again.

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I celebrated my Autumn Equinox ritual in the early afternoon on Friday, September 20, 2013. This was a solitary ADF style ritual that followed the CoOR. I used the Solitary Druid Fellowship’s Autumn Equinox ritual and devotional for this rite, since I wanted a simpler observance for this High Day. I brought silver for the well, incense for the fire, and a bottle of handcrafted ginger ale for the Spirits. As well as honoring Nerthus as the Earth Mother and Heimdallr as the Gatekeeper, I honored the Vanir as a pantheon for this High Day, since they are closely related to fertility and the harvest, which is celebrated at this time of year.

I did this ritual just prior to completing a separate ritual for my Dedicant Oath, and I was a little nervous about both. I didn’t ever really settle into a rhythm, even though the SDF ritual uses lovely poetry and text as part of the celebration. For it’s purposes, I feel like I celebrated other High Days better, and will spend more time on personal offerings when I use this ritual format in the future. Overall it was a good, if somewhat shorter than usual, celebration. I almost poured out ALL of the ginger ale in my last offering and had to remember to save a few mouthfuls for the blessing! That’s what comes of pouring offerings out of the bottle instead of out of my own cup. When I use my cup, I know how much I have to keep back for the blessing!

In the future, before celebrating this holiday, I will also take time to get my “fall” decorations up in my house. It doesn’t feel like fall outside, so having those decorations up (and in my ritual room) helps me feel the changing seasons more than the weather does. I will definitely be using the SDF Autumn Equinox devotional in my future rituals, as I really liked the poetry and imagery for this holiday. It stressed the balance of the Equinox, between light and dark, in a way that I felt was very meaningful.

For the Omen, I said “Great Kindreds, grant me true seeing that I may know what blessings you have for me.” I then drew the following three runes:

  • Isa – Ice – beautiful but dangerous – Something has the appearance of beauty, but danger lurks beneath the surface if you are careless enough to break it. Deceit may be nearby, or a time of frozen standstill. Things aren’t changing – they have the appearance of being fine, but are frozen. Clarity. Make sure your choices are correct and made with consideration and forethought.
  • Hagalaz – Hail – Destruction, death, an early Winter. Destructive, uncontrolled forces of chaos disrupt the natural order – but may renew that order in the end. Disruption of the unconscious.
  • Pertho – Dice cup, vulva, joy, uncertainty – A secret thing, hidden matters, an unseen destiny. Initiation and the unknown changes it will bring. The gamble that is any new beginning. Female mysteries.

Ensure that you know the truth of the situation, what looks beautiful may be hiding danger; the time of destruction is not yet over. The outcome is unknown and will result from your actions – roll the dice carefully, you’re treading on new territory.

Another warning message in the form of a blessing, I think I know what this is referring to – things have been tough recently, in new and different ways, and it’s challenging to go through. But I think the outcome will be good if I continue to work on it and myself, becoming stronger and continuing on my path. This is a pretty personal omen though, so I won’t discuss it further.

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The Autumn Equinox (often called Mabon or Harvest Home in Neopagan circles) occurs on or around September 21st each year, and falls at the point of balance between day and night, when the two stand equal. This year it falls on Sunday, September 22, just a few days after the full Harvest Moon on Thursday September 19th. In the Wheel of the year, this is the second harvest festival – usually the harvest of vegetables and fruits – and serves as the gateway into the “dark” half of the year in some myths. (In other myths the dark and light halves of the year switch at the Summer and Winter Solstice, or at Samhain and Beltaine, so this is a common motif that has several different applications).

Our Own Druidry suggests that this is a time to honor Thor and Sif for their functions at the harvest (67), but this doesn’t make much sense to me, so I will be honoring the Vanir as a pantheon, for their role in the fertility of the earth and its productivity. These Gods and Spirits are involved in the productivity of man and the cultivation of the earth, from Frey’s direct patronage and sacrifice at the Harvest to Freyja’s fertility and Njord’s blessing on the harvest of fish from rivers and seas. Since this is a celebration of harvesting and preparing for the winter, storing up and taking stock and being thankful for the plenty of the year, the Vanir are an appropriate group of deities to honor.

Thematically, in the Neopagan Wheel of the Year, this is the time of reaping what we have sown – all of the ideas and plans that were set into motion at earlier holy days are now coming to fruition with the crops, and the focus is on harvesting the bounties we are due for our labors. The cornucopia is a common symbol, and in some traditions this holiday is called the “Pagan Thanksgiving” – a time of giving thanks and celebrating the harvest.

This is a time of plenty – all the crops are ripe – and a time of very busy preparation. Those ripe crops need to be picked and stored appropriately so they will last until next year, whether stored dry like grain, or canned and pickled, or just placed in cellar storage. Winter may be long, so it’s best to be prepared. Being thankful through that preparation is something I find very appropriate at this time of year. I also enjoy canning and pickling as hobbies, which are good ways of celebrating this harvest festival. My garden is still producing okra, so perhaps I will make some spicy okra pickles to mark the occasion.

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