Modern Norse Heathenism--also called Ásatrú--like all religions, has a religious calendar. It must be pointed out, though, that unlike other pagan reconstruction groups, Ásatrú does not have a definitive record of the pre-Christian holidays it seeks to revive, and so must reconstruct the calendar, usually cobbling together folk holidays from Germany, England, and Scandinavia, into a not-quite-coherent calendar. The problem is that many of the same holidays will carry different names, depending on the branch of Ásatrú the practitioner or group is following. The three main holidays are Yule, Winternights, and whatever name is given to the beginning of the summer.
Also, other holidays, aside from being built on folklore, are also based on a hypothetical Indo-European calendar of Eights: the "Eight Sabbats" of Wicca, which are somewhat based on the Celtic calendar of four Quarter Days and the four seasonal days: November 1, February 2, May 1, and August 1; the summer and winter solstices, and the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. While there is some slight evidence for such a calendar, this is all supposition.
What will follow is a discussion of the dating, months, and the generally agreed-upon religious festivals of Ásatrú, as culled from various books and websites. Major festivals are in bold, while modern, minor festivals are italicized. It is worth noting that the major holidays are generally seasonally based, while the modern minor holidays are more memorial days dedicated to historical figures who refused to convert to Christianity.
Ásatrú Folk use the date "R.E."--"runic era"--as opposed to the Western "AD" or "CE" as both are dated from the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Instead, they begin their era in what the West dates 250 BC/BCE--so that for the day I am writing this, it is 2253 RE. This date is chosen, as it is thought to be the age of the earliest artifacts with runes carved on them.
Religiously, Ásatrú Folk use the old, non-Roman names for the months, usually based on either the original names (usually Icelandic or Anglo-Saxon, depending on the tradition), or on the old folk names for the full moon.
Modern/Roman Folk Names Anglo-Saxon Icelandic
January Snowmoon Æfter-Giuli Thorri
February Horning Solmonath Gói
March Lenting Hredhmonath Einmanudhr
April Seedmoon Eostre Gaukmanudhr/Saidtidh
May Merrymoon Thrimilemonath Eggtidh
June Meadmoon Ærre-Lithe Solmanudhr
July Haymoon Æfter-Lithe Heyannir
August Harvest Weodmonath Tvimanudhr
September Shedding Haligmonath Hanstmanudhr
October Hunting Winterfyllith Gormanudhr
November Fogmoon Blotmonath Frermanudhr
December Yule Ærre-Giuli Hrutmanudhr
It is important to note that the Anglo-Saxon year seems to be divided into the "Giuli" (Yule, winter) half, and the "Litha" (summer) half. Now, whether this is their own tradition, or picked up from the Celts, who divided the year into summer and winter (signified by the Irish holidays Samhain and Beltane), is unknown. Still, the months surrounding Yule and Litha are defined by whether they appear before or after these days.
As most of the days of the week in English are derived from Norse gods anyway, most Ásatrú Folk use the usual day of the week, or a reconstructed form.
Yule is, of course, the winter solstice, occuring around December 21.
It's name is derived from jul, meaning "wheel"--the wheel of the year turns and begins new. This is yet another case of faulty folk etymology. The word jul, while looking similiar to the word jól via hjól, is not in fact derived from this word, meaning "wheel." The etymology and meaning of Yule is actually unknown. (Thanks, Gritchka.)
Remembrance for Raud the Strong
January 9. A Norwegian chieftain who was tortured and killed by Olaf Tryggvason for refusing to convert.
Occurs at the end of January or the full moon. Originally an old Icelandic holiday, it was reinstituted in the 19th century. It is thought to have celebrated Thorri, an Icelandic god of winter--NOT Thor. Thorri's wife Góa represented the spring. However, modern Ásatrú Folk celebrate Thor.
Disting occurs in early to mid February. Originally a Swedish festival, though there is evidence that there may have been an Anglo-Saxon holiday called Ewemeoluc--Ewe milk. This bears (no surprise) a striking similiarity to the Celtic holiday of Imbolc/Oimelc, which occured on February 2. It has since been adopted by modern Ásatrú Folk as the celebration of the coming Spring.
Remembrance for Eyvind Kinnrifi
February 9. Another Norwegian chieftain who was tortured and killed by Olaf Tryggvason for refusing to convert.
February 14--a minor holiday honoring the god Vali. This is based on a false etymology of Valentine's Day, but still is accepted by most Ásatrú Folk.
Ostara / Sigrblót / Sumarsdag
The Spring Equinox. The name Ostara is currently derived from a Saxon goddess Eostre (according to Bede). Much in common with the more pagan aspects of the Christian Easter (from which, of course, it derives its name). Sigrblót is the Scandinavian equivalent, occuring about three weeks later (Apr. 13); both names (so far as I can tell) are accepted. "Sumarsdag" is a Germanic reconstruction.
Ragnar Lodbrok's Day
March 28. Celebrates the Viking leader who sacked Paris.
Remembrance for Haakon Sigurdsson
April 9. Haakon was a chieftain who fought forced conversion.
Walpurgisnacht / Waluburg's Night
April 30--May Eve, corresponding to the Celtic Beltane. It is unknown what the orignal name would have been, but the holiday's existence is based on Germanic folk customs. Modern Ásatrú Folk usually dedicate the day to Freya. Some groups, like the Ring of Thoth, call it Waluburg's Night after a legendary seeress, as opposed to Walpurg's Night, after a Christian saint.
Remembrance for Gudrod of Gudbrandsdal
May 9. Gudrod was a chieftain who was tortured and killed by Saint Olaf, king of Norway.
Last Monday in May. American Ásatrú Folk celebrate Memorial Day as Einherjar Day, einherjar meaning "warrior."
May 27. Holiday honoring Frigga, wife of Odin.
Lindisfarne Day / Remembrance for Sigurd/Sigfried
June 9. Some celebrate this in honor of the day the Vikings sacked the Isle of Lindisfarne and its abbey; others celebrate the day in honor of Sigurd/Sigfried the Dragonslayer of the Saga of the Volsungs/Nibelungenlied.
Midsummer / Litha
The summer solstice. While there is (to my knowledge) no original name to be found (except for the later Anglo-Saxon "Litha"), it is accepted in the Ásatrú calendar based on the day's general significance as the longest day of the year, and its importance in folk customs.
Remembrance for Unn the Deep-Minded
July 9. Unn was a woman chieftain of Iceland.
The Death of Olaf the Fat
July 29. Feast of the death of Saint Olaf, persecuter of the Heathens.
Loaf-Feast / Lammas / Freyfaxi / Freysblot
August 1. The harvest festival, it falls the same day as the Celtic Lughnassadh, and the Christianized Lammas. Some Ásatrú Folk call it Freyfaxi (Frey's Coming) or Freysblot (Feast of Frey) in honor of the harvest god Frey.
Remembrance for King Radbod of Frisia
August 9. Radbod was about to be baptised when he changed his mind, not wanting to be seperated from his ancestors.
Thingtide / Tyr's Blót
August 23. A minor holiday celebrating the god Tyr / Tiw. Not to be confused with the Icelandic Thingtide in June, which is when the Althing meets.
Remembrance for Hermann the Cheruscan
September 9. In honor of Hermann--known to the Romans as Arminius, the Germanic chieftain who destroyed Augustus Caesar's legions in the Black Forest.
Autumnal Equinox. The second harvest holiday. Not much else is documented on the day, other than that it is celebrated as most harvest holidays are celebrated.
Leif Erikson Day
October 12. Honoring Leif Erikson, first documented European explorer and settler of continental North America.
Remembrance of Erik the Red
October 28. Honoring Leif's father Erik, the original p.r. man of Greenland.
Winternights / Winterfylleth
October 12-15. Thought to be a Northern-wide festival. The winter begins, and the Wild Hunt starts to ride, lead by Odin--it bears a striking resemblence to the Celtic Samhain.
Remembrance for Queen Sigrid of Sweden
November 9. She rejected King Olaf Tryggvason's advances, and helped arrange his downfall.
November 11. American Ásatrú Folk celebrate Veterans' Day as Einherjar Day, einherjar meaning "warrior."
Weyland Smith's Day
American Thanksgiving (third Thursday of November). Day celebrating Weyland, the smith-god.
Last Thursday of November. Feast in honor of Ullr, god of the hunt.
Remembrance for Egill Skallagrimsson
December 9. A Viking warrior, magician, and poet.
Eve of Yule, usually December 20. This is a holiday much like Christmas Eve--it is an anticipation of Yule. It also celebrates the thinness between this world and the other worlds, when the dead are more present.
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