Ring 25: The Feast Days

The Primstav calendar was used in the very early Christian Era in Scandinavia and demonstrates a hybrid Christian and Pagan consciousness. Many of the days refer to Christian Saints and many also offer insights on agricultural events and predictions of future weather patterns, a throw back to a very common Pagan practice of Geomancy.

This practice requires the recognition that the earth is alive, and involves paying attention to the natural world and learning to speak and communicate with the living world around us. It is most commonly understood as a divination practice where the natural world can give us information about past, present, and future happenings.

Winter Solstice usually occurs on either December 20 or 21st. 

It is the point, in the northern hemisphere when the north pole has the maximum tilt away from the sun.  It thus is the shortest day of the year.  It is also referred to as Yule or midwinter and is celebrated by many of the traditions that we associate with Yule time and Christmas. The 21st of Dec. is also St. Thomas’ Day. St. Thomas was the disciple who doubted the resurrection and believed only when he had put his hands on Christs wounds.  In Norway, this is the time to brew the Christmas ale and fill up the beer barrels.  Thomas the Brewer is a more common name for the day. 

Christmas Day  Dec. 25th

Christmas day is marked with a drinking horn, a bold emblem and acknowledgment to the importance of this Blot and the importance of drinking and feasting to celebrate the return of the sun to the world.  The days leading up to Christmas and especially Christmas eve are celebrated with elaborate porridge would be made for the Nisse, barn spirits.  Christmas eve dinner is left out all night for ancestors to partake at their Leisure. This is were we get the term smørgåsbord.  Spirits known as the oskorei, the ride of terror, who had no home in heaven or hell also come at this time.  They sought to capture anyone venturing out on this night.  See the Chapter on the Major Feasts of the Year for more info on Yuletide.

Thirteenth Day of Christmas  Jan 6th

This was Christmas day by the Julian Calendar and apparently it was hard day to let go of.  This is also an important day for paying attention to the weather because as the weather is on this day so it will be for the next 13 weeks.

St. Pauls Day January 25th

The 12 days of Christmas are used to know the weather for the 12 months of the year. For example as the weather is on Dec. 25th so it will be in January or Æfterra Geola.  But if there is stormy weather leading up to St. Pauls day then there will be fair weather an equally long time after and if there was nice weather leading up to St, Paul’s day there will be foul weather for an equality long time afterwards.                    

Candle Mass February 2nd

40 days after Christmas, Candle Mass marks the purification of Mary after giving birth.  It was also the day for blessing candles made over the winter. It was also the day to check your food supplies to make sure you still have half left for the rest of winter.

Blowing Mass Feb 3rd

This day celebrates st. Blasius who apparently saved someone from suffocation.  Rituals are done on this day to heal and prevent throat or respiratory issues.  This is also a day to pay attention to the wind, which if strong today will be throughout the year.  This is also the day when the wind blows life back into the hibernating animals

St. Peters day Feb 22nd

This was a holy day to Christians as early as the 4th century.  The symbol, a key is a reminder of the gift to Peter of the keys to heaven.  This was the last day the ice was safe to walk on. 

St. Matthias’ Day Feb 24

Matthias was the apostle who was chosen to replace Judas.  It is also called leap year mass because in a leap year this day would be counted twice.  If it is fair weather on the day it will soon be foul.  If it is foul it will soon be fair.

St. Gregory’s Day March 12th

St Gregory is usually symbolized by a dove but apparently doves weren’t familiar to the Scandinavian’s, so a crow was used instead.  If the crows return on this day then spring will come early

Feast of the Annunciation March 25th

This is the day that Gabriel told Mary she would give birth to Christ. On this day the bear comes out of hibernation; but brooks should not be running, for then they are likely to freeze up again and remain frozen as many days after Mary’s Mass as they had been unfrozen before it.

First Day of Summer April 14th

The Anglo Saxons, Scandanavians and other Germanic people divided the year in half. A summer half written on one side of the Primstav stick and a winter half on the other.   This was the day that you would turn the stick over and start the summer half of the year. As the weather was on the first day of Summer, so it would be for three weeks or for seven weeks.

St. Magnus’ Day April 16th

This day Commemorate the Earl, Magnus, from the Orkney Islands.  This day is marked with an axe, sometimes with a hoe or space and marked the day to begin cultivating the fields.

St. Marks Day April 25th

This symbol is thought to be a quill pen to honor Mark’s gospel.  This is the first day of summer in the Julian Calendar, a time to make sacrifices for victory over Tjasse, the evil spirit of winter.   It is also a day to walk through the fields warding off evil spirits and calling for blessings on the fields and the summer crop. 

Cuckoos Mass May 1st

Two saints are attached to this date but the heathen ways are prominent.  The sound of the cuckoo bird is an unmistakable sign of spring.  And the direction foretells much of what to expect for the coming year.  A young woman who wishes to marry is to run nude around a tree containing a cuckoo bird.  This day is also known as Valborg’s Mass, a saint who was known for her persecution of witches. 

Mass of the Holy Cross May 3rd

This day celebrates the finding of the cross which Christ was crucified upon.  This day also signifies the beginning of summer work, particularly sheering sheep.

St. Hallvard’s Wake May 15th

Hallvard died saving the life of a pregnant woman.  His body was weighted down with a mill stone, the symbol shown here.  This is the time to begin sowing grains. 

Bear Wake May 22nd

This was the time when the bear woke up from his long sleep and left his den.  Feasting began the night before, hence the “wake.” All seed should now be in the ground.

St. Botolph’s Day June 17th

In 1276, the chief court of law in Norway, the Lagting met for the first time.  The Ango-Saxon equivalent was called a Thing.  Things were a time for oaths to be sworn, alliances to be made, and for formal celebration.  They occurred three times a year, mid summer, mid winter, and the beginning of winter.  These were times when Anglo-Saxon kings are reported to have worn their crowns.

Summer Solstice June 20th — 21st

This is the time of the longest day and the shortest year when.  This is the time of the death of the Fair God of sunshine, Baldur.  It is the time when the sun begins its slow decent back into winter.   May heathens also honor Sunna, the sun herself at this time.   This was the traditional time for holding the Allthing in ancient times.  This was a time for merriment, celebration, trade and prosperity. 

St. John’s Wake June 24th

This day is dedicated by the church to John the Baptist.  It is the old mid-summers night.  On the eve of this night witches meet with the devil and plan their mischief for the year.   Trolls, demons and the dead are out this night. This is a time to gather healing herbs.  Mid-summer is a time for miracles of all kinds. 

St. John’s Wake June 24th

This day is dedicated by the church to John the Baptist.  It is the old mid-summers night.  On the eve of this night witches meet with the devil and plan their mischief for the year.   Trolls, demons and the dead are out this night. This is a time to gather healing herbs.  Mid-summer is a time for miracles of all kinds. 

St. Swithin’s Wake July 2nd

St. Swithin was an English bishop of the 9th century in Winchester, England (d. 863).  The weather on this day will prevail for the rest of the year and weeding begins on this day. 

St. Sunniva’s Day July 8th

An Irish Christian princess, Sunniva and her company were killed at Selja near Stadt in Norway.  Haymaking begins on this day.

St. Canute’s Day July 10th

A Danish king and martyr who died on this date in 1013.  This was towards the end of the Viking invasions of England.  Canute submitted to Anglo-Saxon rule of England, and to Christianity.

Midsummer Day July 14th

This was the actual halfway point of the summer half of the year.   If the oats haven’t formed heads by this point the crop will not be good. 

St. Sarah’s Day July 18th

Sarah is the patron saint of laughter. She was born during the Old Testament. Sarah’s birthplace is unknown. She was 127 years old when she died. She is the wife of Abraham. Sarah’s feast day is August 19th.

St. Magdalene’s Day July 22nd

Mary Magdelene stood by jesus on the cross, assisted in the burial and found the empty tomb.  Some believe that she was Jesus’ lover and initiated Jesus in the ways of “woman’s magic” and sexuality.  Similarly Odin was initiated into woman’s magic through his taking up of the Runes. Another name for the day is “good weather prayer day” because after this day it is necessary for the harvested hay to stay dry. 

James Wathet Day July 25th

Rain on this day is a sign of a wet autumn.  The symbol is a hat commonly worn by pilgrims.

St. Anne’s Day July 26th

St. Anne is the mother of Mary and the Grandmother of Jesus.  She is the patron saint of mothers and woman in labor. 

St Olaf’s Wake July 29th

Olaf was a Viking king who worked to unify and Christianize Norway.  Miracles were reported at his shrine and the cathedral of Nidaros was built, which became a great pilgrimage site.  The weather on this day is supposed to match the weather for the rest of autumn.

St. Donatus Day Aug 7th

St. Donatus was at mass one day when heathens broke the chalice.  He prayed over the pieces and the chalice became whole again except for one piece, which the Devil had taken.

St. Lawrence’s Wake Aug 10th

Lawrence was treasurer to Pope Sixtus II and was put to death because he refused to turn over  the treasury to the heathen.  On this day the sap returned to the roots of trees and the gnats disappeared.  All hay must be stored by this day if one wants milk in the winter.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary  Aug 16th

This day honors Mary’s reception into heaven.  It is a day for farmers to pray to Mary to protect their crops.

St. Bartholomew’s Wake Aug 24th

This was the day the rams of the flock were slaughtered.  A spell of bad weather was likely to injure the crops.  St. Bartholomew, one of the apostles, was skinned by the King of Armenia after he had won a great part of the people for Christianity.

St. Matthew’s Day Sept 21th

St. Matthew was a tax collector who left the toll house when jesus said “follow me.”  The symbol is an axe because apparently Matthew ended up getting his head cut off.  Now is the time to chop and store wood for the winter.

St. Michael Mass Sept 29

This day honors the archangel Michael, who leads the angels to fight the forces of evil. Michael was said to weigh the worth of one’s soul with his scales. Michael cakes and other special foods are eaten, and harvest is finished. Many places had market day today — a folk interpretation of the scales symbol. It was the day to change employers, move, and pay off loans. Today may also have been a pre-Christian harvest/thanksgiving feast.  On the eve of this day many evil creatures are about.

St. Bridgrtta’s Day Oct 7th

Birgitta, a Swedish woman of noble family who had visions and founded an important monastic order.  In 1373 she died on a pilgrimage to Rome.  This day is also called Kåldagen (Cabbage Day); cabbage should be harvested and stored for the winter now. Around this time often comes a stretch of warm weather called Brittesommar in some places.

Winter Night Oct 14th

This was the Day to turn over your primstav or calendar stick to reveal the winter side of the year.  The winter side lasted from October 14 until April 13, and the summer side lasts from April 14 until October 13.  This two part division dates back to pre-Christian times. The weather on this day would foretell the winters weather.

St. Ursula’s Day Oct 21st

On this day St. Ursula and 11 other women were killed as they were returning from pilgrimage in Rome.  On this day no work was to be done on spinning tools like spindles, spinning wheels or mills.  Boats are brought out of the water on this day.

St. Simon’s Day Oct 28th

Today honors the apostles Simon and Judas, who were missionaries in Persia. Simon was martyred in 107, by being “sawed to death.” He became patron saint of woodcutters. He’s always mentioned with Judas Thaddeus (Jude in English — the patron saint of lost causes), and they share a saint’s day. This was once called “the two apostles’ mass.”

The animals should now be given winter food rather than let to graze.  They were now to be moved indoors for the winter. 

Feast of All Saints Day Nov 1st

As a Christian holy day this day goes back to the year 155 when the first death of a saint was recorded.  By the 4th century, to many had become martyrs to mention so the day was created.  However Pegan celebrations existed long before and long after this feast day was created. All Hallows Eve is a time when witches and all kinds of evil spirits are out and about. 

St. Martin’s Day Nov 11th

Martin is patron saint of livestock, the poor, the sick, and close friends. On this day one slaughtered all livestock which would not be fed for the winter. November corresponds to Blótmónaþ, or month of sacrifice. No “honorable miller” would grind grain on this day. Bears went to their dens.

St. Clement’s Day Nov 23rd

St. Clement I (pope, 92 — 101AD) was the third bishop of Rome.  St. Clement is remembered for a long letter written in the year 95 reprimanding the church at Corinth for its quarrels and jealousies.  He was exiled from Rome and worked to tear down heathen temples and build churches.  It is told that he was executed by drowning with an anchor attached to him. 

St. Catherine’s Day Nov 25

Feast day of St. Catharine of Alexandria. A popular saint who had converted many pagans.  She was meant to executed on a wheel which miraculously broke.  This is the day to begin spinning yarn for the winter. 

St. Andrew’s Day Nov 30th

St. Andrew acted as mediator between the Jesus and the Greeks.  He also called attention to the child with the loaves and the fishes.  He is the patron saint of fishermen.  Wood for carving should be set aside to season for evening work during the next winter.

St. Barbara’s Day Dec 4th

Barbara was confined in a tower by her father, who wished to protect her beauty from all suitors.  She was nevertheless converted to Christianity, and when this was discovered, her pagan father gave her over to the executioner himself. Christmas weaving should begin now; on this day the sun goes away and comes back on St. Lucia’s day (December  13).

St. Nicholas’s Day Dec 6th

Nicholas was a Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor in the 4th century.  His is said to have saved three sisters from destitution by giving them lumps of gold. He is also said to have freed three unjustly imprisoned officers and saved innocent youths who were condemned to death.   In Norway he is called “Julenissen”.  This day marks the beginning of yule, which is celebrated with much eating and drinking.  

The Immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Dec 9th

This feast was introduced in 1476. This was the day when pregnant women should pray for a safe and timely birth.

St. Lucia’s Day Dec 13th

This day fell on the winter solstice by the Julian Calendar. Lucia was a young Christian woman who gave her dowry to the poor.  Her husband was enraged and accused her of witch craft, but when they tried to burn her at the stake the flames wouldn’t light. She was killed by the sword in 304. The trolls and the fairies come out on this night.


· https://norse-tucson.org/primstav-resources-make-your-own/

· Marking Time: The Pimstav Mural of Sigmond Aarseth

· Primstav markings by Alfred Miller

· Image: https://www.uib.no/en/calendars-project/123105/problem-we%E2%80%99re-losing-touch-changing-seasons

· Chaney, Cult of Anglo-Saxon Kingship, p. 65

· https://norse-tucson.org/primstav-resources-indigenous-european-religion-calendar-and-practices/

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