Holidays in Norse Paganism, Asatru and Heathenry
We have holidays in this religion. Lots of holidays. We have so many holidays, but we don't all agree as to what they are. There are three that most people agree on, though the dates are not agreed on...
This is a living religion, so it gets complicated and everyone has their own way of thinking about it and interpreting the source material.
Here are a few holidays and some ideas for how and when to celebrate.
First, let's talk about the Heathen Calendar because it's different than the one you're probably used to.
The Pre-Christian calendar was a lunisolar calendar.
That means seasons and years were reckoned by sun cycles by months were reckoned by moon cycles. Months for Germanic people used to begin on the Full Moon and run to the next Full Moon.
There are, of course, mystical explanations for this having to do with energies and stuff like that but on a more mundane level, it's pretty easy to reckon time by the size and shape of the moon. It's something that consistently changes in the exact same way month after month and it's always up there.
Don't know what time of the month it is? Is it time to party yet? Just look up!
What are the Asatru Holidays and why doesn't everyone celebrate the same ones?
There are two groupings of holidays that we will break down: those that are generally agreed on and those that are not. We will also indicate the times that each are generally celebrated. We will use the Full Moon calendar for the most part, though we will also reference some of the "Wheel of the Year" timing as well.
Keep in mind, there are some traditions, like Theodisc Belief or Urglaawe that follow different calendars. This is just one example of a way to put one together. This is not the definitive Heathen Calendar! It's just one you could use.
There are three holidays we mostly agree on and that you'll see across traditions.
- Summer Nights/Sigrblot
- Winter Nights/Alfarblot/Disablot
These three holidays come to us mostly from sources like Snorri Sturlusson and the Hiemskringla.
Here are some of the Asatru Holidays we don't all agree on, but many of us celebrate.
- Disting (Second Full Moon of the New year)
- Lenzen (Full Moon Cycle around Vernal Equinox)
- Ostara (First Full Moon After Vernal Equinox)
- May Day (May 1st)
- Midsummer/Litha (Summer Solstice)
- Lammas (Full moon after autumnal equinox)
- Sunwait (starts 6 weeks before Winter Solstice.
Holidays in Heathenry are more like "Holy Tides" than a single day
This can be difficult for a lot of new Heathens to understand but our holidays aren't always just one particular day. They sometimes fall within an observance period that we call a "Holy Tide." So, for example, "Disablot" happens during the Holy Tide of Winter Nights. Sigrblot happens during the Holy Tide of Summer Nights. Some of our Holy Tides are "kicked off" by a Blot like the Yuletide kicking off with a Blot on Mother's Night (if you celebrate on the Solstice).
That's why you see some holidays like "Harvest" split into a Holy Tide between First Harvest and Last Harvest.
An easy way to put it all together is to think that our Holidays begin with a Full Moon and then they "count down" till that Moon is gone.
How do you know that these were actual Pre-Christian Holidays?
Truth is: we don't. We don't know for certain if any of these were actual Pagan holidays. In fact, many folklorists today take an especially skeptical eye to the claims that modern holidays all had some kind of Pagan origin--or even if many of the traditions we celebrate have Pagan origins. It used to be a popular theory that everything we did to celebrate a holiday had its origin in pre-Christian practices, but we don't know any of that for certain.
Why does it seem like everything has to do with farming?
In a lot of our research on Heathen Holidays, we had to tap into folk-traditions that mostly revolve around agriculture.
There are two reasons for why this is.
The first is that people in the early medieval period, whether Pagan or Christian, lived in an agrarian economy.
That means that most of them had their lives timed around agricultural activities. The theory was that many of the folk-customs that early farmers had were hold-overs from the Pre-Christian period. It was also assumed that since rural areas may have converted later, and conformity was harder to enforce, some of those Pagan practices might have been expressed more in those traditions.
Like we said before, some of that is possibly true, but it can't be proven with any genuine certainty.
The second big reason is that we do not have any references as to the story of why any holidays were celebrated at all.
That's the truth of it. Other religions have their holidays woven into the fabric of their religion with stories. Christianity has stories for Christmas, Islam has stories for Ramadan, and Hinduism has stories for Diwali.
Just like them, Pre-Christian Heathens likely had stories about why our Holidays were celebrated, but those stories are long gone and completely forgotten. Maybe someday we'll come up with new stories, but for now we're left to work it out with academics like anthropologists and folklorists to figure out what's what.
"Hey! Where is Freyfaxi, Walpurgisnacht, Feast of Jarl Haakon, Eewische Yeeger and all the other holidays that I celebrate?"
Like we said, this is just a sample calendar of some possible holidays and not a comprehensive statement of the only holidays you can legally celebrate as a Heathen. Some people come from different traditions and have their own schedule of holidays or just call some of the holidays on here by different names.
This table is only one example of a holiday calendar that people use in Heathenry. You'll find so much variation in our religion that trying to say that any one calendar is the definitive Norse Pagan holiday calendar is inevitably going to run into exceptions.
You'll also find links in the Holiday column that will take you to an individual resource page for that holiday to tell you more about where it comes from and ways to celebrate.
Regardless of what you find in the calendar here, you're going to see variation in timing and practice everywhere. This variation is totally normal in every single religion all over the world. Some Christians celebrate some holidays others don't, or celebrate the same holidays but at different times, or celebrate the same holidays at the same time but in different ways.
Religion is weird and diverse because people are weird and diverse. That isn't something we are going to try to deny or change and it doesn't make your religion worse or better than anyone else's.
The Asatru Holiday Calendar
You'll see each holiday here listed with its reckoning and a link to a page which will give you some resources as to where we got the idea for these Holidays, as well as ideas for how you can celebrate these holidays at home.
|Midwinter||First Full Moon after New Moon following Winter Solstice|
|Disting||Full Moon following Midwinter|
|Lenzen||Full Moon Cycle around the Spring Equinox|
|Ostara||First Full Moon After Spring Equinox|
|Summer Nights||Begins First Full Moon After Spring Equinox ends at New Moon|
|May Day||May 1st|
|Full Moon after Autumnal Equinox|
|Harvest Home||New Moon After Autumnal Equinox|
|Winter Nights||Begins Second Full Moon After Autumnal Equinox ends at New Moon|
|Sunwait||6 Weeks Before Winter Solstice|
|Yule||December 21, 2022|
|Midwinter (Thorri)||January 6, 2023|
|Disting (Goi)||February 5, 2023|
|Lenzen||March 7 through April 6, 2023|
|Ostara||April 6, 2023|
|Summer Nights||April 6 through April 20, 2023|
|May Day||May 1, 2023|
|Midsummer||June 21, 2023|
|Lammas||September 29, 2023|
|Harvest Home||October 14, 2023|
|Winter Nights||October 28 - November 13, 2023|
|Sunwait||November 9 - December 21, 2023|
That's just one example of a holiday calendar. You can take this one and run with it to see if it works. If not, feel free to make your own.
It's commonly said in the Heathen community that the exact time a Holiday really begins is when everyone is at the party. What's more important than dates is the people you share your Holidays with and how great of a time you have together. Always keep your loved ones and the special people in your life in mind when you're looking at calendars and holidays.
Other Heathen Traditions and Holiday Calendars
Urglaawe (The "Ancient Belief") is a distinctive modern synthesis of Pennsylvania Dietsch folk tradition and culture with Heathenry or Germanic Paganism. The legends of the Dietsch immigrants and their distinctive dialect formed the inspiration for the modern religion and the holiday calendar. Though many who practice Asatru/Heathenry/Norse Paganism would recognize some of the traditions in Urglaawe, their unique approach and basis within this very specific cultural and linguistic context warrants a separate calendar and a different reckoning of Holidays.
A Note on "Observance Periods"
One note here is the "span of dates" that are in the right column. This sometimes indicates that a holiday could fall anytime between that period of dates. For example "Yuulzeit" is what many of us would call the "Yule Tide" lasts from the time of the winter solstice on December 21st to the beginning of the New Year. "Yuulsege" or what we might call the "Yule Celebration" takes place for them on the 24th of December within the "Yuulzeit."
|Feast of Fro||January 1, 2022|
|Entschtanning||February 2 - February 13, 2022|
|Oschdre||March 20 - March 22, 2022|
|der Ziegdaag||April 1, 2022|
|Wonnezeit||April 30 - May 12, 2022|
|Summeraafang und Dingsege||June 18, 2022|
|Hoietfescht||July 30, 2022|
|Erntfescht und Zisasege||September 24, 2022|
|Allelieweziel||October 29, 2022|
|Ewicher Yeeger||November 12, 2022|
|Voryuul||December 8 - December 20, 2022|
|Yuulzeit||December 21 2022 - January 1, 2023|
|Yuulsege||December 24, 2022|
|Berchtaslaaf||December 31, 2022|
Blot for the Holidays
Some Heathens decide to do a special Blot for each holiday, but they all mostly stick to the same basic forms that we talk about in our page on Blot. For example, Winnifred Hodge Rose and Piper Perry contributed two Yule Blots that they have performed, but you'll notice that there are common structures to each one.
While religious practice varies from place to place and person to person, we mostly stick to the same formats with our basic rituals and add in more elements around them for each holiday. One way to think of it is to imagine that Heathenry is a neighborhood full of pre-built houses. We all live in similar looking houses, but we decorate those houses differently for each holiday. I might put lights on my roof while my neighbor puts lights on the bushes she has outside.
We each do things a little differently, but we are doing those things with houses that are alike. When we think about those decorations, it's important for each of us to remember that ultimately we are looking to delight any guests we might have in our homes.
You'll never go wrong when you put people first.
As a wise poem once said:
"Man is the joy of man."
Or something like that.
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