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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Creating a German Heathen Cycle of Holidays

  One of my first steps in approaching Germanic Heathenry has been to look at what holidays to celebrate. Up until now I've divided my holidays between the Norse and Irish, with the solar holidays - the equinoxes and solstices - being Norse, so this represents an entirely new approach. I believe though that its important to have a solid idea of what is being celebrated, when, and why because it not only connects us to the cycle of the year but also creates a pattern of offerings and reciprocity with the gods and spirits. 
   If the year is divided into two halves, as Grimm describes, and May begins Summer then we may surmise that November begins winter; this lines up perfectly with my own regional environment so I am comfortable going with it. For my purposes then I have Summer Finding in May and Winter Finding in November, representing the shift between the two seasons; in each case the season that is ending would symbolically be defeated by the one that is beginning. Both also have different associations with the Wild Hunt. So we have just celebrated Summer Finding, Sommer Entdeckung, representing the beginning of summer and defeat of winter. 
   After summer begins we have the summer solstice, Mittesommer or Midsummer, when we honor Frau Sonne at the height of her power. Much like May Day this holiday was traditionally associated with Maypole dancing and revelry.
   We know from Grimm that the elves - alfar in Old Norse or German alpen or elben - were given offerings ceremonially in what he equates to the historic Norse alfablots. We just don't know if this was done at specific times of year, or when there was a need, or regularly. I decided to place this celebration at the beginning of the harvest season because the elves were associated with luck, health, and prosperity - all things that also go well with the symbolism of the harvest. I'll call it Elben Segen, or Elf Blessing. 
    I also wanted to include a celebration that focused just on remembering and honoring the ancestors; autumn seemed like the best time for that, but there was other symbolism already associated with the November 1st holiday, Winter Finding as I call it, that I felt detracted from the focus I was looking for. So on the fall equinox I'll celebrate Erntedankfest - Harvest Festival, Thanksgiving - which like the secular American Thanksgiving will emphasize family and harvest foods, but also include a ritual to honor the ancestors.
  Winter Entdeckung, Winter Finding, on November 1st will celebrate the passage of summer and return of winter. Wodan and Frau Holda will be honored, symbolizing the return of the Wild Hunt. 
  Julfest is a 12 day celebration running from approximately December 20th through January 1st. I've blogged about my yule celebrations before here. This year I will of course be looking at how to shift to a more Germanic approach, like including Holle Nacht, but I think many of the traditions will probably be fairly similar. 
   After Julfest, at the beginning of February, I want to keep the modern Heathen celebration of disirblot, but call it Idisi Segen, or Idisi Blessing. The Idisi are protective ancestral spirits, women who have died but continue to watch over the family line. Its important to properly honor the Idisi and I think its very appropriate to have a holiday just for them. 
   In March, at the spring equinox, I celebrate Ostara in honor of the German goddess of spring. She's an obscure one, but there is enough evidence of her to convince me and I think its important to honor her as the initial force of growth and renewal in the land. I have also previously honored Artio, a Germano-Gaulish goddess at this time. 
   And that brings us back to May Day - Sommer Entdeckung, Walpurgisnacht - which I just wrote about in depth and celebrated. 
    So from what I've gleaned from Grimm and incorporated from modern Heathenry I'm looking at:
Sommer Entdeckung - Summer Finding - May 1st - Frau Holda
Mittesommer - Midusmmer, June - Frau Sonne
Elben Segen - Elf-blessing, aka Alfarblot, august 1st - the Elben
Erntedankfest - Harvest Festival - September - honoring the ancestors
Winter Entdeckung - Winter Finding - November 1st - Wodan and Frau Holda
Julfest - aka yule, the night of December 20th through morning of January 1st - many different Gods and spirits
Idisi Segen - Idisi blessing, aka Disirblot, February 1st - the Idisi
Ostara - March, welcoming spring - Ostara

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