On May Day, Bældæg, and Beltane

Baeldaeg weoh

Bældæg wéoh at Whitthenge Heall. The token (symbol) is that of a fylfot firewheel.

As aforewritten in On Summer’s Icumen In, the English Christian May Day unseated the Anglo-Saxon Heathen holytide of Éastre as the day which marks the start of summer.  As such, we might well fathom to find amid its merrymakings, sundry hints of heathen thew. And indeed we do.

Among the Celtic neighbors of the Anglo-Saxons, May Day is oft called Beltane[i]. Found as Beltaine in Old Irish, Bealltainn in Scottish Gaelic, and Boaldyn in Manx, the wellspring of Beltane’s wordlore is believed to be the Proto-Celtic *belo-tanos, “bright fire.”  Though the shaping of Beltane is Celtic, the word itself should not look or sound wholly welsh to the English speaker. The Celtic *belo is kindred to our English, “bale” as in “balefire.”  “Bale,” being born of the Old English bæl, “pyre,” is itself sprung from the Proto-Germanic *bēlą. As such, it finds its root in the same Proto-Indo-European *bʰel-, “shine, gleam,” from whence also sprang the Proto-Celtic *belo.

Of this Celtic Beltane, our earliest witness comes from a medieval Irish glossary, Sanas Chormaic, written about 900.  In it, Beltane is said to be named for the “fire of Bel” and that “a fire was kindled in his name at the beginning of summer always, and cattle were driven between the two fires.” Those fires were betold as being “lucky fires, i.e two fires which Druids used to make with great incantations, and they used to bring the cattle against the diseases of each year to those fires. They used to drive the cattle between them.”[ii] Here we have then not merely a fire rite but, also, a god to whom the day was holy.  Known in sundry Celtic lands as Bel, Beli Mawr, or Belenus, this Celtic “bright one,” as his name is understood to mean, may well be an Indo-European god of great yore-oldness.  Indeed, his likeness in wordlore, if not godlore, is to be found in the Slavic *Belobog, the “bright god.”[iii]

Yet, if such a fore-old fire god was known to Celt and Slav alike, we may well wonder whether or not some hint of his holy heap might be found amongst the Germanic folk?  It would seem so.  Along the Rhine, Jacob Grimm was able to find a wordwise likeness for the Celtic Beltane in the German Pfultag and Pulletag, names for a summer faining which fell upon May 2nd. These, Grimm believed, spoke to an older Old High German Pholtag which “answers to [the Celtic] Bealteine.”[iv]

Like the Celtic Beltane, which mean’s both “bright fire” day and “fire of the god Bel,” Pholtag seems to have meant more than merely “balefire day.” Indeed the Old High German second Merseburg Spell (9th -10th hundredtide), speaks of a god named Phol who may well match the Celtic Bel and the Slavic Belobog. [v]  As the spell has come to us:

Phol and Wodan were in the holt
There the root of Balder’s foal was wrenched (its foot was sprained)
Sinthgunt wiled it, the sister of Sunne
Frijia wiled it, the sister of Fulla
Wodan wiled it, as he well could
So the bone-wrenching, so the blood-wrenching, so the limb-wrenching
Bone to bone, blood to blood
Limb to limb, so the limbs are (set)![vi]

There is no fire to be found in the second Merseburg Spell, yet there is, in its stead, a god whose lore is linked to the balefire.  Here I write of Balder, a god oft thought to be a “Norse god,” yet shown in this spell to have been known in Germania as well.  Whilst much may be said of his godlore, it is his slaying and the laying of his lich upon a balefire (a pyre) that was so widely sung of by skalds.

As read by Grimm and a great many others, Phol is believed to be another name for Balder.  Yet is there more than a reading of the Merseburg Spell to bind these two together? It would seem so.  In the beginning of his Prose Edda, the Icelandic godloreman Snorri Sturluson wrote of a godling and holy king hight Baldeg whose name, “balefire day,” answers the German Photag. As told by Snorri:

Another son of Óðinn was hight Baldeg, him we call Baldr. He owned that land that is now hight Westphalia. His son was Brand, his son Frjóðigar, whom we call Fróða (Frodi). His son was Freóvin, his son Uvigg, his son Gevis, whom we call Gave.[vii]

Here we find in Snorri’s tallying of Óðinn, Baldeg, Brand, Frjóðigar, Freóvin, Uvigg, and Gevis a Norse wending which matches that of Wóden, Bældæg, Brand, Fridhogar, Fréawine, Wig, and Gewis as found in the kingly lines of Wessex and Bernicia.  That his bairn, in both the Norse and Anglo-Saxon reckonings, is hight Brand, “firebrand, torch,” speaks all the more to Bældæg’s fellowship with fire.

It would seem then that the Celts, Germans, Anglo-Saxons, Norse, and Slavs each held to some thread of thew which reached back in time to the heap of an old Indo-European fire god who was fained at summer.[viii]  Amid the Rhineland Germans and amongst the Celts, his fire-faining marked the beginning of summer at Pholtag or Beltane.    Yet his worship by the Norse as Baldr may have been held at Midsummer. It is, at such time, that great fires called Baldersbål, “Balder’s balefire,” are lit. [ix] Indeed, it may be that the same holytide held by the Germanic and Celtic folk to mark the start of summer is held, some months later in Scandinavia, to mark summer’s middle.  It is at Midsummer, after all, that the Swedes raise their own “Maypole” which they call a Midsommarstång, “Midsummer stang/pole.”

As to his worship amongst the Anglo-Saxons, we know less than we would like to know.  Such is so with all Anglo-Saxon godlore. Whilst Bældæg’s wordlore belongs to a Wóden-sprung king named in the old kingly lines of both Wessex and Bernicia, we find no Anglo-Saxon holytide by that name. Yet Bealdor, being kindred to the Norse Baldr, is indeed witnessed in Anglo-Saxon godlore as his name was borrowed for Christ in the lay of Andreas just as some of his story may be found in Dream of the Rood and in Beowulf. Could it be that Bealdor/Bældæg was worshiped at the start of summer, alongside the goddess Éastre? It could. Yet one must remember that whilst we now speak of the Anglo-Saxons as one folk, they were not truly so in Heathentimes.   Indeed, what came to be known as the Anglo-Saxons were a blend of Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, among others, who came from their own Germanic homelands to settle Britannia. And, in their settling, they gave shape to sundry kingdoms across the land. It may be then that the Saxons, be they Saxons of Wessex or Westphalia, began summer with the worship of Bealdor/Bældæg whereas the Angles of Northumbria, the land in which Béda was born and wrote, marked summer’s start by faining Éastre, for the goddess of dawn.[x]

Anglish Wordhoard
Aforewritten – Said before, akin to aforesaid
Agast – Surprise
Bairn – A son or offspring
Betell – Describe
Eft-shaped – Reconstructed
Faining – Celebration
Fathom – Imagine
Fore-old – Before old, of great antiquity
Godloreman – Mythologist
Heap – Cultus, the cult of a god
Heathentimes – The time before conversion to Christianity
Hight – To name, named
Holy king – Sacral King
Hundredtide – Century
Kindred – Cognate
Lay – Poem
Lich – Corpse
Lorespring – A spring of lore, a primary source of lore
Mainland – Continent
Namelore – Etymology
Reading – Interpretation
Skaldic craft – the craft of the skald, the Norse poet. Poetry.
Spell – Charm
Therewithness – Presence
Thew – Custom, tradition
Unriddle – Explain
Welsh – Foreign. From the OE wealh, “foreigner.”
Wile – Charm, enchant, from the OE wígle, “soothsaying”
Wordlore – Etymology
Word-wend – Translate
Wordwise likeness – Etymological cognate
Year-Reckoning – Calendar
Yore-old – Of antiquity, ancient-old
Yoretidely – Ancient

[i] This shape of its name was found in King James I’s of Scotland’s “The lawes and actes of parliament maid be King James the first and his successours kinges of Scotland” (1424) and has since become the English spelling of the name.
[ii] Sans Chormaic. John O’Donovan and ed. Whitley Stokes (Calcutta, 1868) 19, 23 though I myself found this citation in Ronald Hutton’s Stations of the Sun, chapter 22 Beltane p 218,219.
[iii] The name *Belobog is not attested but, rather, eft-shaped (reconstructed) from a reckoning given by the Germanic priest, Helmold in his Chronica Slavorum (12th hundredtide)
[iv] Teutonic Mythology: Volume II, p 614
[v] In fairness, it should be said that the wordlore for Phol is not fully agreed upon. Other meanings will be fathomed a forthcoming article.
[vi] Phol ende Uuodan uuorun zi holza.
du uuart demo Balderes uolon sin uuoz birenkit.
thu biguol en Sinthgunt, Sunna era suister;
thu biguol en Friia, Uolla era suister;
thu biguol en Uuodan, so he uuola conda:
sose benrenki, sose bluotrenki, sose lidirenki:
ben zi bena, bluot si bluoda,
lid zi geliden, sose gelimida sin
Wended from the Old High German by Þórbeorht
[vii] Snort Sturluson’s Prose Edda, Prologue, Chapter 5
Annarr sonr Óðins hét Baldeg, er vér köllum Baldr. Hann átti þat land, er nú heitir Vestfál. Hans sonr var Brandr, hans sonr Frjóðigar, er vér köllum Fróða. Hans sonr var Freóvin, hans sonr Uvigg, hans sonr Gevis, er vér köllum Gave. – Wended by Þórbeorht
[viii] Either at its start or middle, as will be betold further in the next blog.
[ix] James Frazer’s The Golden Bough  page 769
[x] That Bældæg is found in the kingly line of Bernicia would so too seem to speak to a Saxon settlement in that Anglian kingdom or, if not a settlement of Saxon folk, the therewithness of a Saxon kingly line. Yet whilst Bernicia became half of Northumbria, the other half came from the Anglian kingdom of Deira.  And in the Deiran kingly line, Bældæg is nowhere found.


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On Éarendel

Olaus Magnus Historia om de nordiska folken

Olaus Magnus Historia om de nordiska folken. Bok 1 – Kapitel 17 – Om solens afspeglingar. Utgivningår 1555.

Wordlorewise, Éastre may well find kindship with another Anglo-Saxon god, Éarendel (ON: Aurvandil from the PGmc: *auzi- “dawn” and *wandilaz “wandering”). In the Prose Edda’s Skáldskaparmál, it is said that thunder god Þórr (OE: Þunor) sought leechcraft from the witch (ON: vǫlva) Gróa, “Growing,” following his fig ht with the ettin Hrungnir. Whilst she sang her healing spells over his head-wound, Þórr shared with her news of her wayward husband, Aurvandil – that Þórr had found him in Jotunheimr, the land of the giants, and that he had borne him upon his back homeward over the icy waters yet. In the wading Aurvandil’s toe had become frostbitten and so Þórr broke it off and hurled it into the heavens where it shined as a star.

Though Aurvandil’s godlore is given almost in passing in the Prose Edda, it may well be that his worship was more widespread than might be otherwise thought. Indeed, in the Old English lay, Crist I (9th hundredtide), Aurvandil’s Anglo-Saxon name, Éarendel, is given to the new god, Christ himself.

O’ Dawn Wanderer,     brightest angel,
over Middle Earth   to men sent,
and sooth-fast     leam of the sun,
brightness over stars,     each tide(season) thou,
of thyself,     ever lights (illuminates).[i]

Christ I is, itself, an Old English amending of the Latin O Oriens, a song sung by Christians at evensong on the fifth day of Advent, that being the winter sunstead. Here Éarendel is believed to betoken, the bright “morning star,” that heavenly body which is now known to us as Venus.

Elsewhere, however, Éarendel’s name was not given to Christ but, rather, to his forerunner, John the Baptist. As may be read in Seo Gebyrd S. Johannes Þæs Fulwihteres of the Blickling Homilies (10th hundredtide), “the new Éarendel (Venus) is Saint John, and now the leam that is the sooth sun, God himself (Christ), will come.” [ii] And so it would seem that Christ was, in some sense, worshipped as a sun god with Éarendel, a heathen god wended into a holy man, going before him to make way for his dawning.

As the Anglo-Saxon Éastre is the “dawning” and the Norse Gróa the “growing,” we may well be foreled to think them kindred, if not the same. Furthermore, we might foreled to think that Éarendel, the Day-Wanderer, is the godly groom who goes before his Dawn goddess bride. Yet such is only guess-spelling and is not proven by booklore. Yet upon the wordlore of their names alone, one might well think it wise to worship them together.

[i] Eala Earendel,         engla beorhtast,
ofer middangeard         monnum sended,
ond soðfæsta         sunnan leoma,
torht ofer tunglas,         þu tida gehwane
of sylfum þe         symle inlihtes
Crist I 104-108 –
Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht
[ii] se niwa eorendel Sanctus Iohannes; & nu nu se leoma þære soþan sunnan God selfa cuman wille. –
Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht

Anglish Wordhoard
Betoken – Represent, symbolize
Éastre – Easter, An Anglo-Saxon Goddess whose name was borrowed for the Christian Pascha
Ettin – A giant, an “eater,” or “devourer”
Forelead – Tempted
Hundredtide – Century
Guess-spell – Hypothesis, hypothetical
Kindred – Cognate
Leam – Sunbeam
Leechcraft – The craft of a leech (a doctor or healer)
Winter Sunstead – Winter Solstice
Wordlore – Etymology
Wordlorewise – Etymologically

Posted in Ealdríce Hæðengyld - A Theodish Fellowship

On Summer’s Icumen In

Olaus Magnus Historia om de nordiska folken

Woodcut from Olaus Magnus’  History of the Nordic Peoples (1555 CE)

It may well astound some to learn that the yoretidely Anglo-Saxons did not reckon summer’s starting by the summer sunstead (solstice) as nowtidely men do today. Rather, the summer sunstead was known to them as Midsummer as it marked summer’s middle.  Though not written outright, if one reads between the lines, one may find that the heathen Anglo-Saxons welcomed summer’s icumen in[i] upon the full moon of Éastremónaþ. In De mensibus Anglorum of De Temporum Ratione (725 CE), Béda wrote of the Anglo-Saxon yeartides, betelling them thus:

Likewise they sundered the year into two tides, namely winter and summer. The six months wherein the days are longer than the nights are called summer and the other six, winter.  Thus the month wherein the tide of winter begins is called Winterfylleþ, a name born by binding of the words “winter” and “full moon,” as it is from the full moon of that month that winter is allotted to begin.[ii]

If the year was sundered into two same halves, it would follow that, if winter began upon the full moon of Winterfylleþ (more or less October) then so too would summer be marked by the full moon of Éastremónaþ (more or less April).  Whilst its daymark moves to and fro from year to year, with the Anglo-Saxon month being meted by the moon, the Anglo-Saxon heathen Éastre  falls between the 1st and 29th days of April (see the table below).

Like the Anglo-Saxon géarmæl, the Old Icelandic calendar halved the year into the yeartides of winter and summer, with winter beginning on the first day of Gormánuður[iii] (mid October to mid November) and summer beginning on the first day of Harpa[iv] (mid April to mid May).  It should be noted that the months of the Old Icelandic calendar were not reckoned by the moon but, rather, began on a given day of the week.[v]  As such, the month of Harpa and, with it, the first day of summer, would fall on the second Thursday after the 11th day of April. This put summer‘s beginning somewhere between the 19th and 25th days of April. As such, both the Anglo-Saxon and the Norseman alike reckoned summer to begin sometime in what is now known to us as April.

To the nowtidely Englishman, it may seem odd that summer should begin in April as it has long been held in the land that summer begins on May Day. Yet May, being first a fixed Roman month, was mostly unknown to our Anglo-Saxon heathen forebears who reckoned their own months and yeartides by the moon. That summer began on the holiday of Éastre, and that Éastre’s faining was marked by the full moon of Éastremónaþ, was a truth untethered to any mess that the Romans might have made when they unmoored their months from the moon.[vi]

With Christendom’s coming, however, the reckoning of summer was less straightforward.  As the Heathen Éastre and the Christian Pascha fell so near to one another, the name of the former was borrowed for the latter. In such way Pascha came to be called Easter amongst the English.

And yet, whilst in most years the Christian reckoning of Easter, the Sunday following the full moon after the lenten even-night, falls within a week of the Heathen Éastre, the full moon of Éastremónaþ, it is not always so.  Indeed, in seven of the Getælcircul’s nineteen years, the Heathen Éastre falls near the end of April, within a week or so of May, whilst the Christian Easter is held about a month early (see the table below).  In such years, being more than a third yet not half, summer has not yet “come to town.”[vii] As one might well guess, the Heathen bond between Easter and summer was soon broken.

The Church, however, had its own way of reckoning both winter and summer – one not meted by the moon but, rather, by the seven starry sisters who shape the Pleiades.  As betold in The Old English Martyrology:

7 November – On the seventh day of the month beeth winter’s beginning.  The winter haveth two and ninety days, and then goeth up (rise) the Seven Stars [Pleiades] in the evening and settle (set) at dawn.

9 May – On the ninth day of the month beeth summer’s beginning. The summer haveth ninety days; then goeth up (rise) the Seven Stars [Pleiades] before daybreak and settle (set) in the evening. [viii]

Whilst this summer reckoning fell some days after the old Éastre, it held truer as a mark for summer’s “coming to town” than the Church’s oft-too-early Easter.  Thus May Day came to be.

As with so many things, the root of such yeartide-reckoning did not begin with the Church. It was, instead, inherited from the pagan Greeks and Romans who came before Christ.[ix] Yet, for as wise as they were, the calendar of the Roman pagans was ten hours too long.  Over time the days began to drift backwards until the sunsteads and even-nights no longer truly fell upon the daymarks given to them.

By the late Middle Ages, however, it was widely acknowledged that, due to the aforesaid drift, the Pleiades’ dawn-rising was more rightly reckoned to begin on the first of May.   Thus summer’s icumen in was moved from the ninth of May to its first, where it has been held by Englishmen ever since. Yet amongst the Anglo-Saxon Théodsmen of the Ealdríce, the Christian calendar means little. It is not the Roman March, April, or May that we mind but, rather, the Anglo-Saxon Éastremónaþ. And so, within our holy groves and at our frithyards, summer’s beginning is fained not on the summer sunstead, the Christian Easter, or even the first of May but upon old Heathen Éastre, when our fore-elders first held it. As they did then, so do we the same.

Anglish Wordhoard
Betell – Describe, explain
Bewrite – Describe, explain
Daymark – Date
Éastre – Easter
Faining – A celebration
Fore-elders – Ancient ancestors
Frithyard – A roped-off outdoor enclosure used for worship, a “sanctuary yard.”
Géarmæl – An Old English work for “calendar,” literally a “year measure.”
Getælcircul – Old English for “the tally circle,” the Metonic Cycle of 19 years when the lunar and solar years re-align.
Lenten Even-Night – Spring Equinox
Mete – Measure
Nowtidely – Contemporary, modern
Same – Equal
Suchwise – In such manner
Summer Sunstead – The summer solstice
Yeartide – Season
Yoretidely – Ancient

The Reckoning of Éastre and Easter

Dates for the Heathen Éastre as reckoned by the full moon of Éastremónaþ. Dates for the Christian Easter as marked by the first Sunday to follow the first full moon which falls on or after the Lenten Even-Night (Spring Equinox).
28th April 2010
17th April 2011
6th April 2012
25th April 2013
15th April 2014
4th April 2015
22nd April 2016
11th April 2017
29th April 2018
19th April 2019
7th April 2020
26th April 2021
16th April 2022
6th April 2023
23rd April 2024
12th April 2025
1st April 2026
20th April 2027
9th April 2028
   4th April 2010
24th April 2011
8th April 2012
31st March 2013
20th April 2014
5th April 2015
27th March 2016
16th April 2017
1st April 2018
21st April 2019
12th April 2020
4th April 2021
17th April 2022
9th April 2023
31st March 2024
20th April 2025
5th April 2026
28th March 2027
16th April 2028

[i] From the Middle English song, Sumer Is Icumen In (Sumer Is A-coming In).
[ii] Item principaliter annum totum in duo tempora, hiemis videlicet et æstatis, dispertiebant—sex illos menses quibus longiores sunt noctibus dies æstati tribuendo, sex reliquos hiemi. Unde et mensem quo hyemalia tempora incipiebant Vuinterfylleth appellabant, composito nomine ab hyeme et plenilunio, quia videlicet a plenilunio eiusdem mensis hyems sortiretur initium. Wended from Latin by Þórbeorht.
[iii] According to Cleasby/Vigfusson, “Gore-month, the first winter month, about the middle of October to the middle of November, so called from the slaughtering of beasts for winter.”
[iv] Akin to the OE hearp, “harp,” though it is also thought that Harpa may be the name of a forgotten goddess.  We may well be forgiven is we fathom the Anglo-Saxon goddess Éastre playing her harp at dawn.
[v] This is a needful streamlining.  To do right by the Old Icelandic calendar and to fully betell its workings would call for the writing of another article.
[vi] Which they did early on in their history.
[vii] “Come to town” is a wordstring often used to mark the beginning of the yeartides in The Old English Menologium and in later Middle English works such as the song Lenten Ys Come.
[viii] IX Þrimilce
On ðone nygeþan dæg ðæs monðes bið sumeres fruma. Se sumor hafað hundnygontig daga; þonne gangað þa seofen steorran on úhtan up, ond on æfen on setl.
VII Blódmónað
On ðone seofoþan dæg ðæs monðes bið wintres fruma. Se winter hafað tu ond hundnygontig daga, ond ðonne gongað þa seofen steorran on úhtan up on æfen ond on dægered on setl.
The Old English Martyrology. Wended from Old English by Þóbeorht
[ix] Bede, De temporum ratione, Chapter 25: Graeci autem et Romani, quorum in huiusmodi disciplina potius quam Hispanorum auctoritas sequi consuevit
[x] I have streamlined things here a bit as the English did not adopt the Gregorian Calendar until 1752 due to King Henry VIII’s break with the Roman Church.

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On Éastremónaþ, Éaster, and Éastre

EostreUpon the Sunday following the first full moon after the Lencten even-night,[i] a housel is held throughout Christendom to recall their godling’s grave-rising.  Whilst known by most of Christendom as Pascha, the Latin name for the Jewish Passover, throughout English speaking world the holiday is, instead, known as Easter.  Taken from the Anglo-Saxon moon-month of Éastermónaþ, “Easter Month,” which fell nigh about the Roman month of April, Easter was a name well known in England long before Augustine brought the Christian gospel to its shores in 597 CE.  As betold by Béda in his reckoning of the Anglo-Saxon months, De mensibus Anglorum (725 CE):

Éastermónaþ, which is now name-wended “Paschal Month,” was named for the goddess Éostre to whom they once held fainings. By her name they now call the Paschaltide; the name that was thewful (customary) for their old rites being given to the gladness of their new worship.”[ii]

As aforesaid in On the Right Reckoning of Módraniht, the Anglo-Saxon church borrowed freely from a thew which once belonged to the old belief so as to ease troth-wending.  To this end, Christ was bestowed with the names of Bealdor, Éarendel, Fréa, and Wuldor (ON: Baldr, Aurvandil, Freyr, and Ullr), gods whose reach touched upon the worship of the sun or sky.  Moreover, Éaster is not alone in being a Heathen holytide rebranded as a Christian holiday.  The Cristesmæsse (Christ Mass, Christmas) offered by Anglo-Saxon Christians at the winter sunstead to mark their godling’s birth was, for many hundretide, known by the heathen name of Géol (ON: Jól).  Indeed in sundry carols it is still sometimes sung of as Yule.

As to the goddess Éastre, her name springs from the Proto-Germanic *Austrǭ, itself from the Proto-Indo-European *h₂éws¸ meaning both “dawn” and “east.” Her namelore is shared by other Indo-European dawn goddesses such as the Hindu Ushas, the Greek Eos, the Roman Aurora, and the Lithuanian Aušrinė. As such, we may well believe that the Anglo-Saxon Éastre is, as well, a goddess of the dawn.  That the church would borrow the name of her holytide for that of their Passover speaks to the Anglican troth-melding begotten by Bishop Mellitus (see On the Right Reckoning of Módraniht).  Where the risen Sun goddess was once fained, a housel was held for the grave-risen “Son of God.”

Yet as the holytide of Éaster is held but one month a year and the dawn arises every day, we might well wonder what holy rune her yeartidely faining betokened (what sacred mystery her seasonal celebration symbolized). Though it is but a learned guess, we might well think it to be the dawning of the summer-sun.  On this, more will follow in a forthcoming blog entry.

Anglish Wordhoard
Betoken – Symbolize
Betold – Described
Éaster – The holytide upon which the goddess Éastre was worshipped and which marked the beginning of summer.
Éastre – The Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn
Éastremónaþ – “Easter Month,” a lunar month in the Anglo-Saxon calendar roughly corresponding with April.
Fain – Celebrate
Faining – A Théodish-wrought word meaning “to celebrate” or “to worship.”
Housel – An old word for the Eucharist, itself sprung from the Old English húsel, “sacrificial feast
Hundedtide – Century
Godling – The offspring of a god, the “son of (a) god”
Grave-rising – Resurrection
Lencten even-night – Lenten even-night, Spring Equinox
Moon-month – Lunar month, from new moon to new moon
Name-lore – Etymology
Name-wended – Name translated
Rune – Mystery
Sunstead – Solstice
Thew – Custom, tradition
Thewful – Customary, traditional
Troth-melding – Religious syncretism
Troth-wending – Trust-turning, religious conversion
Yeartidely – Annual, seasonal

[i] This is the Christian way of reckoning their Easter Mass.  The Heathen reckoning is far more straightforward, being the full moon of Éastremónaþ.
[ii] Eostur-monath, qui nunc paschalis mensis interpretetur, quondam a dea illorum quae Eostre vocabatur, et cui in illo festa celebrabant, nomen habuit, a cuius nomine nunc paschale tempus cognominant; consueto antiquae observationis vocabulo gaudia novae solemnitatis vocantes. Taken from De Temporum Ratione (725 CE), De mensibus Anglorum.  Wended from Latin by Þórbeorht.

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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.

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On Solmónaþ, Pancakes, and Ploughs

Daniel Stolz von Stolzenberg Viridarium Chymicum

Woodcut from Daniel Stolz von Stolzenberg’s Viridarium Chymicum (1624 CE)

Amid the Lenten traditions of the English[i], there may be found threads of yore-old heathen thew Christened long ago by the early Anglo-Saxon church. Indeed, such heathenish customs abide to this very day, though few who hold to them know from whence the roots of such rites spring.  Foremost amongst these folkways may be reckoned of those of the sun and plough which once belonged to the Anglo-Saxon month of Solmónaþ (more or less February). Of Solmónaþ and the heathen worship which followed, Béda wrote that:  “Sun-month may be said to be the “month of flat cakes,” which they, in that month, gave to their gods.”[ii] Such “flat cakes” betokened the sun itself whose again-faring drew out the day and so betokened the beginning of Lencten, “Lengthening, Lent.”

As a holy housel shared between gods and men, such flat sun-shaped cakes, or as we might now call them, pancakes, were partaken of in great fulsomeness at this time.  As sundry Shrovetide traditions show, well into the early Modern Era did Englishmen fattened themselves with such pancakes so as to make ready for the leanness of Lencten. As betold by John Brand amid the leafs of his great gathering of English oldenways, Observations on The popular Antiquities of Great Britain (1777 CE):

“At Hoddesdon, in Hertfordshire, the old curfew bell […] has from time immemorial been regularly rung on the morning of Shrove Tuesday, at four o’clock, after which hour the inhabitants are at liberty to make and eat pancakes, until the bell rings at eight o’clock at night. This custom is observed so closely, that after that hour not a pancake remains in the town.”

Here, alongside the heathenish partaking of pancakes, we find another oldenway held until nowtidely time by the English which has seemingly sprung from the Anglo-Saxon Solmónaþ.  As betold by Brand, Plough Monday, now held on the Monday following Epiphany, once fell nearer to Lent.

In the North of England there is a custom used at or about this time, which, as will be seen, was anciently observed also in the beginning of Lent. The Fool Plough goes about, a pageant that consists of a number of sword-dancers dragging a plough with music, and one, sometimes two, in very strange attire; the Bessy, in the grotesque habit of an old woman, and the Fool, almost covered with skins, a hairy cap on, and the tail of some animal hanging from his back.

In so unseemly a rite as this, we may find some small remembrance of the heathenish Æcer Bót, the “Acre Remedy” of the 10th hundredtide. Within the Æcer Bót itself, the holy-bedding[iii] of a heavenly drighten and an earth goddess is recalled so that she might, by his plough and her plowing, be filled with his seed and bring forth the harvest from her bosom. As forespelled by that fore-old spell:

Then have a man drive the plough forth and the first furrow open, quoth then:
“Hale be thou fold (earth),     mother of men!
Be thou growing     in god’s fathom (embrace),
filled [with] fodder     for the use of men.”[iv]

Indeed, it is in this very spell that the Lenten traditions of the pancake housel and the plough’s begoing are seen together, having first arisen from the same rite. As forthwith follows in the Æcer Bót:

Take then each kind of meal and have a man bake a loaf as broad as the inside of the hand and kneed it mid (with) milk and mid holy-water and lay it under the first furrow. Quoth then:
“Fodder’s full acre     for mankind
bright-blooming,     thou blessed and worthy;
[May] the god, that wrought the grounds     grant us growing gift,
that for us every corn-grain may     come to use.”[v]

As may be reckoned by the lore-wise, the sun-cake sown by the heavenly drighten into the womb of the rime-cold earth goddess may well fit the Nordic godlore of Fréa’s (ON: Freyr) wedding of the white-armed goddess Geard (ON: Gerdr).  In such a way the plough betokens Fréa’s mickle manliness even as the furrowed mound betokens Geard’s waiting womanliness.   And so, when Englishmen play about the plough after Epiphany or partake of pancakes at the beginning of Lencten, they do so, knowingly or not, in keeping with a yore-old heathen thew sown long ago. Yet, among those who follow the Anglo-Saxon Théodish Belief of the Ealdríce, such oldenways they remember with advantages[vi], knowing full well as they do that, in such merriment, they fain the wedding of a sun god and an earth goddess,[vii] in the hope that such a holy bedding will bring forth a fulsome harvest – even as their fore-elders once did.

Anglish Wordhoard
Again-faring – Return
Begoing – Procession
Betell – Describe
Drighten – Lord
Fain – celebrate
Folkway –Custom
Fore-elders – Ancestors
Fore-spell – Prescribe
Fulsome – abundant
Godlore – Mythology
Housel – To feast, from the OE “Húsel,” and a word which until lately was used for the Eucharist amongst High Church Anglicans
Hundredtide – Century
Leaf – Page
Oldenway – Tradition
Thew – Tradition, custom
Yore-old – Ancient

[i] The English here betokens the nowtidely offspring of the Anglo-Saxons as they may found throughout the “Anglosphere” so as to include Anglo-Americans, Australians, Anglo-Canadians, Rhodesians, and such.
[ii] Sol-monath dici potest mensis placentarum, quas in eo diis suis offerebant. Taken from De Temporum Ratione (725 CE), De mensibus Anglorum. Wended from Latin by Þórbeorht.
[iii] Known in Greco-Roman religion as a hieros gamos, “sacred marriage.”
[iv] þonne man þá sulh forð drífe and þá forman furh onscéote, cweð þonne:
Hál wes þú, folde,     fíra módor!
Béo þú growende     on godes fæþme,
fódre gefylled     fírum tó nytte.
Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht.
[v] Nim þonne ælces cynnes melo and ábacæ man innewerdre handa brádnæ hláf and gecned hine mid meolce and mid háligwætere and lecge under þá forman furh. Cweþe þonne:
Ful æcer fódres     fíra cinne,
beorhtblówende,     þú geblétsod weorþ
sé god, sé þas grundas geworhte,     geunne ús grówende gife,
þæt ús corna gehwylc     cume tó nytte.
Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht.
[vi] A play upon Shakespeare’s play, Henry V, made for the sake of being playful.
[vii] This is not to say that Ing-Fréa is “the” sun god nor is it to say that Geard is “the” earth goddess” of Germanic godlore. Indeed, there are sundry gods who might be called “sky gods” and sundry goddesses who might be called “earth goddesses” in our lore. Yet, in the rite betold in the Æcer Bót, Fréa and his wife seem most fitting.

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On Solmónaþ and Lent

Death comes for the Farmer or Husbandman, engraved by Georg Scharffenberg, from 'Der Todten Tanz', published Basel, 1843 (litho)

Detail of Death comes for the Farmer or Husbandman by Hans Holbein The Younger

The moon-reckoned month known to the Anglo-Saxons as Solmónaþ, that is “Sun-month,” fell more or less about the month now known as February.  As betokened by its name, Solmónaþ marked the again-fairing of the sun, her waxing, and the lengthening of the days. Of Solmónaþ, the Old English Menologium offers this: “Then about the fifth night, Winter is a-fared from the village…Lent hath sailed to town.[i]”  It must here be said that the word “Lent” springs from the Old English Lencten, that is “lengthening,” the Anglo-Saxon name given to the yeartide now known as Spring. As such, the Anglo-Saxon “Spring” of Lencten did not begin with Spring even-night but rather with the lengthening of the day at Solmónaþ.  Unlike the yeartides now known to us, the Anglo-Saxon Heathen did not mark their beginnings by the sunsteads or even-nights. Instead, such days marked the middle of each yeartide. This can readily be seen in the names given to the Winter and Summer sunsteads: that of Midwinter and Midsummer. Such may also be said for the yeartide of Lencten which began with the lengthening of the days at Solmónaþ with the even-night falling midway between the yeartide’s beginning and ending.

Long before Christianity came to our homelands and abanned a formal fast, Lencten was a lean time.  By Lencten the food-hoard gathered for winter had begun to wane and it would be some time still before anything newly sown could be harvested.  Whilst our fore-elders never “gave up” a food for Lencten as the Christians did for Lent, they did indeed eat less at this time as they sought to stretch their stores until the summer when they would be filled anew.

Though there is no call for Théodsmen to ape their Christian neighbors by foregoing food during the Lenctentíd, there may be those who, in seeking to follow the yeartides as their fore-elders once did, choose to know some small meting of hunger.  It is not unheard of, after all, for some Théodsmen to take it upon themselves to eat yeartidely food grown on their own land or upon that of some nearby farm.  This said, no Théodsman bereaves himself of meat or meal to be shriven of his sins as a Christian might.  Sin, true wrongdoing, is a thing for Thing that is set right not by shriving shame behind closed doors but, instead, by yielding shild as deemed by one’s lord and before the folk at moot. And so, as we keep the yeartide of Lencten, let us recall what it first meant to our heathen fore-elders: the lengthening of the day and the leanness of meat which lent itself to a longing for summer.

Anglish Wordhoard
Abann – announce, formally proclaim
Bereave – deny
Even-night – equinox
Meat – From the Old English mete, which meant any kind of food and not merely flesh.
Meting – measurement, that which is meted out.
Moot – the law assembly
Moon-reckoned – determined by the moon, lunar months
Shild – a debt incurred by wrongdoing, a legal fine
Shrive – to confess and perform penance
Sin – a word wrought from an ancient Germanic legal formula meaning “to be” as in “to be guilty of a crime.”
Sunstead – solstice
Thing – the law assembly
Yeartide – season
Yeartidely – seasonal

[i] Ðænne þæs emb fíf niht     þæt afered byð
Winter of wícum     Lines 23,24a
Þæs þe lenctun on tún    geliden hæfde        Line 28
Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht.

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On the Holding of Holytides and the Gathering for Moot

Les Delices des Pais-Bas

Anglo-Saxon gods as drawn in Les Délices des Pais-Bas

Whilst the new moon betokened the beginning of the new month, it may well be asked when, in a given month, did our fore-elders fain the holydays?  The worship of Midwinter and Midsummer are stapled by the sunsteads and were thus held without heed to the moon’s wayfaring.  Of the other holytides, however, we might well believe that they were marked by the moon. Indeed, hint of such may well be found in the name of Winterfylleþ, “winter full moon month,” as it is believed that the elves were given worship at this time as witnessed by the Norse Álfablót.

As told by Tacitus in his Germania, “They gather, lest it be by hap or for sudden need, either at the new moon or the full, as they believe that these tides are lucky for the beginning of business.[i]” Indeed, though it was of Thing that Tacitus wrote, law and holiness were wholly entwined in elder heathendom with Moot itself often tethered to a high holytide. ‘Twould then seem most likely then that the holydays, like moot, were held either upon the new moon or the full.

Within the Ealdríce itself, we have chosen to follow that Théodish thew handed down from the Witan Théod and the Wínland Ríce whereby all fainings, but those of Midwinter and Midsummer, are held nigh if not upon the full moon.  Of moot, which we hold monthly, we gather nigh if not upon the new moon, that is, by sight of its waxing horn. In such way we give the fullness of our worship to the gods when the moon is full yet we begin new guild business at the month’s beginning when the moon is new.

[There is, however, no thew that forbids our mooting on the full moon or even upon the sunsteads. Indeed, it may be that, upon a high holytide, the Ealdríce might both fain the gods and hold moot should it seem fitting and needful to do so.]


Anglish Wordhoard
Fain – to celebrate
Faining – A Théodish rite of worship
Holyday – Holiday, literally a “holy day”
Holytide – A holy tide, a holy occasion
Moot – a law assembly or court, interchangeable with Thing
Sunstead – Solstice
Thew – tradition, custom
Thing – a law assembly or court, interchangeable with Moot

[i] Coeunt, nisi quid fortuitum et subitum incidit, certis diebus, cum aut incohatur luna aut impletur; nam agendis rebus hoc auspicatissimum initium credunt. Wended from Latin by Þórbeorht.

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Our Old Home Page

[Below is our fellowship’s former “Home Page.” Originally written in 2010/11, it changed some over the years but the bulk of it more or less remained the same. Having recently retired this “home page” and replaced it with a more streamlined “home page,” we have decided to post it here for posterity.]


ealdriceemblemgoldcenterMid Rihtum Gódum Willan
With a Right Good Will

‘Twas over forty winters ago, in a small, sleepy town, tucked away in a near forgotten corner of the country, that a fellowship of friends, young men and women bold by their youth but wise beyond their years, awoke in their hearts and minds. As if roused from an evil spell that had set them to slumber, they heard the clear calling of the Old Gods, echoing across the ages, resounding from the ancient Saxon forests that their forebears had once called home. These were the first contemporary Heathens, a merry yet mysterious band who dedicated themselves to reviving the religion of Wóden, the father of gods and rider of the World Tree, and Fríge, the mother of earth and lady of love. They believed that their renewal of the old belief was a return to a holy, affirming, world accepting, life giving, and joyous religion. This renewal they named Théodish Belief, the belief of the folk, the belief of the tribe.

One may ask, why? Why renew a root so far forgotten in the past, one so buried beneath layers of Christian history? Because Heathens, then and now, verily believe in our heart of hearts that this “Way of the Heathen” is the surest, soothest, tried and true means by which men and women may be roused from the spiritual laziness, apathy, and savage selfishness that modern religion has afforded them. We believe that we, Wóden’s own, the descendents of the Anglo-Saxons, Norse, and Teutonic tribes, might yet renew the old belief . Furthermore, we believe our gods deserve no less. Our Heathen belief is, now as it was then, one worth believing. This world, despite the Christian’s denial and Atheist’s disbelief, is in truth a magical world, a world full of gods.

Though it may very well be difficult to imagine, you may be surprised by how much of the old religion you know already. You do, after all, know the names for the days of the week, Sunnandæg Mónandæg Tiwesdæg Wódnesdæg Þúnresdæg Frigedæg Sæturnesdæg – Sun’s Day/Sunday, Moon’s Day/Monday, Tiw’s Day/Tuesday, Woden’s Day/Wednesday, Thunor’s Day/Thursday, Fríge’s Day/Friday, Saturn’s Day/Saturday. And it would probably not be too great an assumption to think you know the goddess of the Spring, Eostre/Easter, and the hares who so openly show her fertility and fecundity, the new life that she brings to the land once Winter has begun to wane. Dare we say you’ve mostly likely heard of Lent, the lengthening of the days that comes with the Spring, and May Day as well. Our friend, you already know of Yule/Christmas, its yuletide carols, the decking of the halls with balls of holly and evergreen, the tree, the log, the gifts, and the joyful wassailing thereof. In the late Autumn, you already gather for a thanksgiving, to give thanks for the harvest. Mother Earth, Robin Hood, King Arthur, and Beowulf are already known to you, even if John Barleycorn and Weyland the Smith should require reintroduction.

No matter what you may have been told, the old gods are not dead, and the old religion has lived anew for quite some time now. Should you find your soul stirring, should you find your taper lit, and should you hear the winds as they blow through the forests of old, by all means friend, speak up. There are others who have gathered in the forest before you.

To contact us: Click here
The Ealdríce Théodish Fellowship • PO Box 13961 • Richmond, Virginia 23225
You can also check us out on Facebook at The Ealdríce: A Théodish Fellowship

Hǽðendóm • Þéodisc Geléafa • Ésatréow
Heathendom • Théodish Belief • Ásatrú
Heathenry • Theodism • Asatru
Eald Geléafa • Old Belief
Ealdriht • Old Rite

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Writings, Wordlore, and Holy Work 

The blóterehád of the Ealdríce is forlain upon the elder heathen priesthood as it was found throughout Germania during the Folkwanderingtide.  Within the Old English writ-hoard itself, written witnesses to the Anglo-Saxon blóterehád are few, though not as fewsome as many have been misled to believe.  Yet from the loresprings of other thentidely théods such as the Suebi, Burgundians, and Goths, much may be learned of the blóterehád that the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes brought with them when they fared forth from their homelands mid the 5th hundredtide.

Of the elder blóterehád, most Medieval writers, being Romans or churchmen, wrote of sacerdotes, “priests” or even pontifices, “pontiffs.”  Yet, among those who wrote in the Anglo-Saxon tongue, we find them called æweweardas, “law warders,” þingere “intercessors or those who speak at þing,” wéofodþegnas, “altar thanes,” wígbedwígleras, “altar seers,” heargweardas “temple warders,” hylteras “lot casters” and, as they are most oft spoken of within the Ealdríce, blóteras, “sacrificers.”

As might be gleaned from such wordlore, and from sundry loresprings spanning a thousand years, ‘twas the blótere’s trust to see to the offering of livestock to the gods, the warding and work of the heap and holystead, the overseeing of moot, the casting of rune-scored lots, the wiling of what was to come, and the bidding of the gods for their blessings. Beyond this, blóteras were said to bear into battle graven godliknesses and other such tokens brought forth from their holy groves.[i]

Anglish Wordhoard
Blót – Old English for “sacrifice”
Blótere – Old English for “one who sacrifices,” “a priest”
Blóterehád – Old English for “priesthood”
Folkwanderingtide – The Germanic Migration Era (300-500 CE)
Forlain – Founded
Fewsome – Rare, seldom
Heap – A word which can mean “cultus” or “religious following” but here speaks to a hearg, an altar of stones “heaped” upon one another.
Hundredtide – Century
Godlikeness – an idol, the likeness of a god
Loresprings – Histories
Thentidely – Contemporary to that time
Théod – Tribe, people, nation
Wile, Wiling – From the OE: wíglung, with wíg being a variant of wéoh, “holy.” Whereas wíglung meant to “cast lots” or “practice divination,” in such NE words as wily, guile, and beguile, it has come to mean “to deceive,” itself a fascinating insight into what the church thought of heathen wíglung. Here it is here used in its original heathen sense.
Writ-hoard – Literary corpus

[i] Tacitus, Germania, Chapter 7 – Effigiesque et signa quaedam detracta lucis in proelium ferunt

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