On Hréþmónaþ Also Called Hlýda


Lagertha by Morris Meredith Williams,  from   The Northmen in Britain (1913)

Amid the twenty and seven Anglo-Saxon year-reckonings that are known to us still, two Old English names are found for the moon-marked month which fell nigh the Roman March: Hréþmónaþ and Hlýda, which is sometimes called Hlýdmónaþ. Wordlorewise, Hréþmónaþ may be said to mean “fierce month” even as Hlýda may be said to mean “loud one” and Hlýdmónaþ “loud month.” Such names hold well with what we know of the late English Lencten as the weather at that time is marked by winds both fierce (OE: hréðe) and loud (OE: hlúd).  Indeed, in an English saying recalled by Thomas Fuller in his Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings (1773 CE), the month’s weather is betold thus: “March balkham (Aries ram) comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb.”[i]  Moreover, the month is likewise marked by hailstorms.  As bewritten in the Old English Menologium:

Then it cometh forth,
after one night,   among us to town
rime-bedecked.  Hail showers fareth
yond Middle Earth.   Fierce March,
highly Hylda[ii]

With wordlore and weatherlore being so much the same, we would think no more on the meaning of month, finding it full well settled, were it not for Béda’s reckoning of the Anglo-Saxon holy year.   Of Hréþmónaþ, Béda offered further insight in his De mensibus Anglorum (725 CE) wherein he wrote that “Hréþmónaþ, from the goddess Hréþe to whom they gave blót, was so named.”[iii]  The namelore of Hréþe may well be that of the month, meaning fierce (OE: hréðe) in the she is the “fierce one,” a name befitting a goddess whose reach is the late Lencten wind and hailstorm.

As hap may have it, the name Hlýda, “loud one,” may also be that of a goddess – even the same goddess as Hréþe. Throughout the second and third hundredtides, along the Rhine and in Frisia, engravings were made to a goddess known as Hludana (Latin: Dea Hludana).  Whilst her namelore is unsettled amongst learned men, it is not at all unlikely that it stems from the Proto-Germanic *hlúdaz, meaning both “loud” and “famous.”  And so it is that, nigh the full moon of Hréþmónaþ, the Anglo-Saxon Théodsmen of the Ealdríce gather to worship and, it may be sometimes to blót, the Lencten storm goddess, whose fierce and loud begoing betokens the end of the bitter winter and foreshadows the blithe summer to come.

Anglish Wordhoard
Begoing – Procession
Betold – Described
Bewritten – Described
Blót – Sacrifice
Engravings- Inscriptions
Fore-elders – Ancestors
Hundredtide – Century
Lencten – The Anglo-Saxon season between Winter and Summer which means “lengthening” and is akin to the word Lenten.
Moon-marked  – Marked by the moon, lunar
Namelore – The lore or names, etymology
Thew – Custom
Weatherlore – The lore of weather, meteorology
Wordlorewise – The lore of words, etymology
Year-reckoning – A reckoning of the year, a calendar
Yoretidely – Ancient

[i] Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, 1732. Line 6473
[ii] Þænne he furðor cymeð
ufor anre niht    us to tune
Hrime gehyrsted     hagolscurum færð
Geond middangeard     Martius reðe
Hlyda healic.
Lines 33b-37a
Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht.
[iii] Rhed-monath a dea illorum Rheda, cui in illo sacrificabant, nominator.
Taken from De Temporum Ratione (725 CE), De mensibus Anglorum.  Wended from Latin by Þórbeorht.

About Þórbeorht Línléah

Ealdorblótere (chief priest) at Whitthenge Heall of the Ealdríce, an Anglo-Saxon Théodish fellowship. Author of Of Ghosts and Godpoles: Theodish Essays Pertaining to the Reconstruction of Saxon Heathen Belief, Both Old and Anglo (2014). Author of Þæt Ealdríce’s Hálgungbóc: The Théodish Liturgy of Þæt Ealdríce (2015, 2016). Þórbeorht resides in Richmond, Virginia with his wife Eþelwynn and two daughters.
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