Ring 26 is composed of eight triangles that roughly mark the winter solstice, when the nights are longest; the summer solstice, when the day is longest; the equinoxes, when night and day are of equal length; and the four cross quarters between these times. The technical dates for these significant events varies by about 2 to 3 days per year. Just like today, when we rely on priests and clergy to tell us when Easter will be, this was probably the case for our pre-Christian ancestors as well. All of these 8 festivals are lunisolar, meaning that their observance requires an understanding of the relationship between the solar cycle and the lunar.
The Julian calendar, a purely solar Calendar, was introduced in the 400s. Before that these celebrations would have been tracked using the calendar they had, which was lunisolar. I imagine each one as a tide, roughly defined by the solar quarter or cross quarter, and distinguished by a lunar phase or period. The festivals honor and celebrate an essential truth of the cyclical nature of time and our intimate interdependence with the natural and spiritual world. We are a part of the turning of the seasons and our acknowledgment and reverence for this process is essential to that relationship being strong and healthy.
With the introduction of the Julian sun calendar Yule tide was set to be December 20-31st. But It is easy to imagine a time when Yule was from solstice time until Modranecht, or mothers night, the first new moon of the new year and the beginning of the month of Æfterra Geola. If you look on the GardorCraeft Calendar you can see that this span of time would be anywhere from a few days to few weeks.
Yule is cognate with the rune Gér, which means year, harvest or plenty. This is the most important festival of the year. Yule is the darkest time of the year the beginning and end of all things. It has come to be associated with male deities; Freyr rides over the earth on the back of his shinning boar, Baldur and Jesus are reborn, Odin rides Sleipnir, his eight legged horse, on a wild hunt through the sky, And St. Nicholas brings gifts for all the children, but Modranecht, or Mothers’ Night, reminds us that this first and formost is a time to be closest to what gives and nourishes life. It is a time to honor our female ancestors, our Idisi.
The Idisa, or Disir, are our ancestors (mostly our female ancestors) that have crossed over and who we now can have a relationship with in spirit. The three Norns are some of our oldest Idisi, as well as the Valkrie, who are most famous for choosing who lives and who dies on the battle field. The Idisi seem to be most accessible to us during the winter months and are celebrated during all three of the winter festivals, Vetrnætr, Yule and Disting.
Yuletide, means the time or season of yule. The word tide is connected to the ocean and thus to the cycles of the moon. These eight festivals can all be thought about in terms of a tide or season. The new moon is a time for endings and beginnings, where as the full moon is a time to be fully immersed.
The first day, or new moon of Solmónaþ is known as Disting Day. On this day charming the plow, or ‘field remedy’ ritual is performed. The Ritual calls for the plow to be anointed with cakes and oils and for cakes to be placed in the fresh furrows. Disting was the time when the cattle were counted and ones wealth was tallied. The idisi are also present and called on and celebrated at this time. This date correlates roughly with the spring cross quarter and the Celtic tradition of Imbolc, celebrating the goddess Brigid. She is the goddess of Fire, metal smithing and poetry, among other things. The Charming the plow ritual is significant, as well as other sharpening and blessing tool rituals. There was significant overlapping of culture and tradition in the English isles between Germanic and Celtic tribes.
The modern festival of Easter occurs on the first Sunday, after the first full moon after the autumn equinox. This is the only modern Christian holiday that still takes into account the position of the moon. It is an amazing tribute to ancient days of lunisolar time keeping. In the Runic Calendar the full moon closest to the equinox or soonest after the equinox certainly would have been! With this formula Ostara could easily fall in Hréþmónaþ or Eostermonað. Both months connected with obviously very important but not well understood goddesses.
Ostara is cognate with the word East, as in the direction. If you hold the GaldorCraeft Calendar with the Winter Soltice at the top then Spring Exuinox is in the East position. East is the direction of the sunrise. It is the direction of rebirth, renewal, rejoicing and fertility. The gift of colored eggs is a way of wishing someone well for the coming season; a magical ritual of prosperity and fecundity. The rabbit was the symbol of this festival as well because of it’s re-emergence during this season, and for its reproductive ability.
The festival of Walpurgis, in modern times is connected with the Gregorian Dates of 30 April – 1 May. Saint Walpurga lived in England from 710-779. She was renowned for battling sickness and disease, as well as witchcraft. May corresponds to Ðrimilcemonað, or month of three milkings. This is a time of celebrating spring fertility and the return of abundance of growth and prosperity. Many old Pegan rituals are performed at this time including the may pole dance, which is believed to be Germanic in origin. The Celtic festival of Beltane happens at this time, which also includes fertility rites, and celebration, rituals for protection and offering to ancestors.
Because of the month names Ærra Líþa, or before midsummer and Æftera Líþa or after mid-summer, it is possible that our ancient heathen ancestors would have celebrated this festival at the end of one month/ the begining of the other or the new moon of Æftera Líþa. They were also well aware of the mid, quarter and cross quarter sections of the solar year, so could easily have just celebrated at this mid way juncture. Or perhaps there was a mid-summer tide that lasted from the summer solstice till the new moon of Æftera Líþa, similar to what I described for the Yule tide. Midsummer is the time when the power of the sun is its greatest. It was a time when sailing, trade and travel where easiest. This is also the time when the days begin to shorten again. It is one of the three most important feasts of the year.
Lammas Lammas is the first of three harvest festivals of the year. Using our Gragorian solar Calendar, Lammas falls on August 1st, hinting at an approximation of the mid-way point between the summer solstice and the autumnal exuinox and also the beginning of a month or moon phase. If you look at the Lunisolar GuldorCraeft calendar you can see that the midway point between the Summer solstice and autumnal equinox or “cross quarter,” is actually a bit later in August. The GuldorCraeft Calendar helps us see the “tide” of lammas as falling between the cross quarter and new moon or first of Weodmónaþ (weed or grain month).
Also known as “Loaf Mass Day,” The name originates from the word “loaf” in reference to bread and “Mass” in reference to the Communion. It is a festival to mark the blessing of the First Fruits of harvest. This is a time for giving thanks to Urþa (Earth), to be generous and share in her bounty. Loaves of bread are baked in the shape of the sun wheel, Fylfot (which was shamefully mis-appropriated by the nazi party in Germany). These loaves are shared, especially with those in need.
Lammas, 1941 was allegedly the time when the magical lodges of England performed rituals to keep the Nazi forces from invading their country; which may have worked, since Hitler eventually abandoned plans to invade Great Britain. Lithasblot has long been associated with ceremonial magic and magical workings.
The autumn equinox is the transition from the summer half of the year to the winter half of the year. And similar to Ostera on the other side of the year, the fist new moon after the equinox is significant and marks the first month of winter. You can see from the GuldorCraeft calendar that almost all of the first new moons after the Autumn Exuinox are for the month of Winterfylleth. This is a time to be fully engaged in preparing for winter
Vetrnætr Vetrnætr, or Winter nights is one of the most important festivals of the year. The other two being Yule and mid summer. This is a time to honor our dead ancestors and make sacrifices to them to show our respect and desire to maintain good relationship. It is particularly important to honor and acknowledge our female ancestors, idisi or disir. Like the Norns, our idisi have power to influence our fate and are particularly famous for showing up on the battlefield to hamper ones enemy. Winter nights is celebrated on the eve of Blótmónaþ, or month of sacrifice. All animals that cant be kept through the winter are killed at this time.
Beltane was is the Celtic version of this time and probably influenced the Germanic holiday in Anglo-Saxon holiday in England especially. I mentioned above that later “All Saints Day” was established at this time as well. Like Easter this appears to be another; “if you cant beat them join them.” type of situation where the Pegan and Christian exist side by side.
· Chapru, Doleta (1977). A Festival of the English May. Folklore Village Farm. p. 3.
· Snorri Sturluson. The Prose Edda. Gylfaginning 49
· Grimm(1865). ‘Kleinere Schriften. 2. Berlin: Harrwitz und Gossman. pp. 1–29.