Heathen Festivals and ideas for rituals.
Much of our information about festivals observed in Northern tradition is derived from Icelandic sources.
Of these, there were three main festivals: Thorriblot at Yuletide, Siggiblot in spring, before they went “a-viking,” and a harvest festival in which any surplus animals were sacrificed. Festivals were more or less in accordance with the English calendar, in which the solstices and equinoxes are celebrated. For this reason I have chosen to adhere to this tradition and have constructed a system of festivals in keeping with the well-known eight pagan festivals, which are combined with appropriate runes in futhark order and related to the Northern myths. This is then superimposed on the yearly calendar.
In the Modern Heathen Calender the festivals in Western Europe are synchronised with the well known Pagan dates.
Festival of the Idises, when the effects of Winter are beginning to lessen and the world prepares itself for Spring. Corresponds to the pagan holiday of Imbolc.
At Disting the appropriate runes are Pertho, Algiz and Sowulo. Pertho is the rune of the goddess Frigga, as well as of the Norns. Frigga is the life-giving mother who gives birth to Baldur, thus initiating the yearly cycle again. Algiz is the rune sacred to the Valkyries. Sowulo represents the Sun gaining its strength, and the return of all life in Nature, to be manifested at the spring equinox and thus complete the year. A ritual kindling of the fire would be appropriate at this festival.
Festival of Ostara (Eostre), the Spring Goddess
Starting with the third aett, which for this purpose can be regarded as the first aett, the first three runes (namely Teiwaz, Berkana and Ehwaz) correspond to the first pagan festival of spring, Ostara or Spring equinox This festival of birth corresponds to the runes when applied in the following manner: Teiwaz as the Skyfather, Berkana the Earthmother, and Ehwaz as the newborn life, like the foal, born in spring. A ritual could then be constructed along these lines. An excellent day for Wiccans to get at it:-)
The next festival is known in England as Beltane and in German tradition as Walpurgis night. Beltane or Walpurgis night was sacred to Freya, and the runes corresponding to it are Mannaz, Laguz and Inguz; Mannaz represents the intellect, Laguz the intuition and Inguz the integration of the two. Mannaz also means “men,” whereas Inguz is female; Laguz then is the force of attraction between these two polarities. This can be symbolically enacted in a ritual featuring the sacred marriage between the God and the Goddess, or the Lord and the Lady within the framework of the Northern mythology. The oldest Germanic tradition used Wodan and Frija. Also, any pair of twins, like Niord and Nerthus or Frey and Freya, are suitable for this sort of ritual.
The next festival is midsummer. The Runes for this festival are Othala,Dagaz, and Fehu. You notice that Dagaz actually falls on Midsummer. Othala in this context represent Odin,Fehu represents Freya, and given that in the oldest Germanic Tradition Freya is the same as Frigga the oldest name for both being Frija. Dagaz The Rune of Summer Solstice, represents the slaying of Baldur. A ritual employing these runes and constructed around the myth of Baldur’s death can be devised in which Odin, Baldur and Frigga are all involved.
Litha’s Blot, Lammas
The next festival is Lammas or Celtic language – Lughnassad. Lugh, after whom Lughnassad takes its name – is a Celtic solar god comparable to Odin. This is borne out by the circumstance that one of the runes for this festival is Ansuz, which represents Odin in his aspect of inspiration (inspiration being recognized as a solar attribute). The other two runes to be used are Uruz and Thurisaz, both of which are associated with Thor and which especially evoke a thunderstorm. Thor could therefore also be the god to be given priority in this ritual. The giants are also an aspect of Thurisaz. In this context they may well represent the un assimilated raw material of the human psyche.
It may be noticed that there is an element of confrontation here between two opposing forces, Odin and the giants, with Thor as the protective strength between them (we should bear in mind that Thor is part giant himself and thus takes the part both of Odin and of the giants). This ritual could be enacted as a “fight” between Thor and the giant, Hrungnir, to gain supremacy over solar power. Alternatively, a ritual could be enacted depicting the contest of wits between Odin and the giant Vafthrudnir. This series of runes could also be interpreted in a depth-psychological manner. Uruz would then stand for the raw, primitive, fiery urge; Ansuz would represent the higher function of the intellect; and Thurisaz would be the mediating field of conflict and interaction between the two. of the intellect; and Thurisaz would be the mediating field of conflict and interaction between the two.
The next festival is the autumn equinox; the runes associated with it are Kenaz, Raido and Gebo. At the autumn equinox, the forces of light and darkness are balanced. At midsummer, the Sun is at its highest point, and at Yule at its darkest point; at the spring and autumn equinoxes the Sun is at a midway point.
Since one of the meanings of Gebo is equilibrium and the balancing of opposing forces of equal strength, this rune is appropriate for the festival. Kenaz and Raido inform us about the nature of these forces, namely knowledge and consciousness. At this festival a ritual symbolizing Odin’s initiation on Yggdrasil could be enacted, the meaning of which is the suspension of Odin between the realms of light and darkness in order that he could gain knowledge and achieve a higher state of consciousness.
Halloween is the next festival. The month in which Halloween falls is called Blotmonath in Anglo-Saxon, or “blood month.” It was then that the ritual sacrifices were performed, and for a very practical reason. All the animals were slaughtered so that a supply of food was assured during the winter.
Traditionally, Halloween has been associated with the dead and the “thinning of the veil” between the realms of life and death, which facilitates communications between these realms. Hagalaz is the rune that provides access to the underworld of Hel, where the dead reside. In olden days in Holland and certain parts of Germany, boys used to wear masks to frighten the girls, and would make mischief like petty thefts. This was known as the “stealing right” or the “right to steal,” and it derives from an old ritual in which the warriors of the tribe ceremonially enacted the part of the Einherjar or heroes. The modern, reconstructed version of Einherjar’s day is usually known as Remembrance Day and takes place on the eleventh day of Blotmonath, or November. Both festivals, Halloween and Einherjar’s day, concern the dead and their remembrance. For this reason I correlate these festivals.
The runes associated with Halloween are Wunjo, Hagalaz and Nauthiz. Wunjo represents Odin in his aspect of a shaman who raises the volva; Hagalaz represents the volva, or haegtessa, and Nauthiz represents Odin’s dire need as he seeks interpretation of Baldur’s dream. A ritual symbolizing Odin traveling to the realm of Hel to consult the volva would be very appropriate, and a recital of the Voluspa by the priestess enacting the volva would be a very powerful adjunct to the ritual.
The festival of Yule falls half a year after midsummer, and its runes are Isa, Jera and Eihwaz. Isa represents the frost giants. Jera is the turning point of the year, symbolizing the return of the Sun and the lengthening of the days. The Eihwaz rune represents Yggdrasil, the tree, which maintains the appearance of life throughout the winter. Incidentally, the notion of the Christmas tree is a remnant of this belief.
The best way of making the right magical connections is through personal effort, meditation and experience. Reading the Edda’s, studying the Saga’s enter into the mindset of the Myths All information on ritual given here should be viewed as conclusions I have drawn and the lessons I have learned from my personal research and experimentation. These cannot be taken as the final, authoritative word on the subject; rather they are meant as building blocks to be used by the beginner in constructing his or her own individual system of rune-magic. Most of all important, create your own!